On most college football teams, a player has to earn his stripes. But at Ohio State under first-year coach Urban Meyer, new players are trying to earn the right to lose their stripe.
A thin strip of black tape that runs over the middle of the helmet gives the gray headgear an Oakland Raiders-like look. But it means the wearer is considered to be the little brother of a designated upperclassman on the team.
“The symbolism of it is defining them as a freshman,” said junior center Corey Linsley, whose little brother is freshman lineman Joey O’Connor. “When they become a grown man, as we’re always talking about, that’s when there will be kind of a ceremony in which the stripe is removed.”
“I wanted to put them through a ritual to become a member of the team, but not allow hazing,” Meyer said. “They had to earn it the right way, not through hazing and silly, dangerous stuff. They had to earn the right on the football field and by being accountable.
But the black stripe indicates the new players still have things to learn about what it means to be a Buckeye — from the way they practice, to their conduct in and around the facility, to their approach to academics, to their demeanor in public. It is the upperclassmen’s job to show them the ropes, and finally help make the decision to remove the stripe.
“We talk a lot, especially in the film room. I’m making sure he’s catching on to how to do things, such as writing notes about what we watch and hear.”
That touched on part of the genius of the concept. The older brother knows he must do things the right way because the little brother is paying attention to his every move.
“That’s exactly the way I look at it, that I can’t let my little brother down because he’s right there looking at me every time I do something,” Guiton said. “He’s a lot of times telling me, ‘Good job, good job’ out there on the practice field, too. And I’m telling you, I need to hear that ‘good job’ now and then.”