The pandemic cost many athletes a chance at glory, but it might give the Pickerington North defensive end an early shot.

Editor's note: This article was originally published in our September issue, before the Big Ten made the decision to proceed with a fall 2020 football season.

Uncertainty has defined this year for just about everyone, but Jack Sawyer has always been sure about his dream of playing football for Ohio State. The possibility that the Big Ten would postpone its fall sports slate until winter or spring presented an opportunity for Sawyer, the top-ranked recruit in OSU’s 2021 class, who’d already intended to enroll in January. So on Aug. 14, shortly after Ohio high schools announced a pandemic-shortened football season, he declared he would forgo his senior campaign at Pickerington North to focus on preparing to play for the Buckeyes sooner than he’d originally planned.

“If everything was normal and we weren’t in a worldwide pandemic, it wouldn’t even be a thought in my mind to not play my senior year,” Sawyer said in a late August interview. “Everyone who knows me knows I’m a competitor. I want to get out there and play. But it’s unprecedented times, you know?”

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For Sawyer, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound defensive end in the mold of the Bosa brothers and Chase Young, the prospect of jump-starting his college career in a delayed Big Ten season was too enticing to pass up, but first he had to break the news to Pickerington North coach Nate Hillerich. 

“He said if I was his kid and I had the opportunity I did in front of me, he’d probably be doing the same thing with his kid, too,” Sawyer recalled. “So it made it better, but that still was a very tough conversation.” 

At press time, the Big Ten’s plans were up in the air, leaving Sawyer and other elite early OSU enrollees in limbo. Sawyer said even if he can’t suit up until next fall, he’ll feel good about his decision because he’ll get valuable time with OSU coaches. “So I don’t think I have any regrets at all.”