COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer doesn’t waste a lot of time thinking about kickers, but even he had to admit that Tyler Durbin is a pretty cool story.
A walk-on kicker who played in his first football game at any level last Saturday, Durbin got the start and was perfect converting 11 extra points. He buried half of his dozen kickoffs in the end zone for touchbacks, and even made a tackle. Ohio State named him special teams player of the week.
“I don’t know where the hell he came from,” Meyer said this week. And he was only half kidding.
Meyer had never met Durbin until the coach saw him booming punts in training camp a few weeks ago, walked over and introduced himself. The former collegiate soccer player kicked a 62-yard field goal in practice and won the starting job after veteran kicker Sean Nuernberger was sidelined with a groin injury.
A Virginia native, Durbin, 22, played soccer for two years at James Madison University but left because the school didn’t have the civil engineering program he wanted. That’s when he decided to give kicking a football a try.
“I had thought about trying to kick in high school, but with my soccer schedule I just never found the opportunity,” he said.
After working with a kicking tutor, Durbin sent tapes to schools that had recognized civil engineering programs as well as top-notch football teams: Ohio State, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. He included Ohio State because his girlfriend-now-wife, Kristin, is from Dayton and comes from a Buckeyes family. Ohio State gave him a shot.
Durbin’s first day on campus was the day Ohio State won the national championship in January 2015, but he didn’t get a chance to show what he could do until training camp opened last month.
“I’ve always had a big leg, and it came pretty naturally to me,” he said.
Now he’s the starting kicker for the No. 4 team in the country, and Meyer is raving about the hang time on his booming kickoffs.
“I don’t really know how all this happened, but it’s been an incredible ride,” Durbin said. “I went out to dinner with my family and my wife’s family (after the game) and we were just talking about it, how surreal it was that I played in a game for the Buckeyes.”
Durbin didn’t get to attempt a field goal yet, but may get a chance before another home crowd of 100,000-plus when Tulsa visits Ohio Stadium Saturday.
At least his coach can pick him out of a crowd now.
“He’s a really good guy, man,” Meyer said. “I love that kid. His effort is outstanding.”
Outside linebacker Chris Worley is questionable for Saturday’s game with a knee injury suffered against Bowling Green. Meyer said Joe Burger or Jerome Baker would replace him in the starting lineup.
Meyer said wide receiver Corey Smith had a tight hamstring that affected his speed and hampered his performance last week. Smith was one of the few Ohio State receivers who didn’t catch a pass as the Buckeyes piled up a school record 776 yards of offense.
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