May 2, 2013

Mewhort trying to fill leadership void

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Jack Mewhort arrived at Ohio State as a classmate of John Simon's in 2009. He then spent the better part of his first four seasons in Columbus competing against the Buckeyes defensive lineman in practice.

Now, Mewhort finds himself faced with the task of replacing Simon, who was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the fourth round of Saturday's NFl Draft.

The fifth-year OSU left tackle won't attempt to replace Simon at defensive end, where he walked away from his senior season as the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year -- Noah Spence has been given the enviable task of attempting to do that. Rather it will be the void of the "heart and soul" of the Buckeyes football program that Mewhort will attempt to fill, after Simon helped lead Ohio State to an undefeated season in 2012 while playing that role.

Simon's efforts led to his jersey joining Florida quarterback Tim Tebow's on a wall in Urban Meyer's office, and the Buckeyes head coach is hopeful that Mewhort's No. 74 jersey will be the latest to join his collection.

"I walk him by my office all the time. I show him that spot," Meyer during a speech at the Hall of Fame Luncheon Club in Canton, Ohio. "I tell him, 'I have a spot for a jersey right here. And it's not just because you're a great player. It's because you're one of the most selfless, toughest human beings to ever play the game.'"

Through the first five months of the offseason and 15 spring practices, Mewhort has embraced his new role as the Buckeyes' leader, although he admitted that it hasn't always come easy for him. Whereas guys like Simon and Tebow were viewed as leaders on their respective teams as early as the sophomore seasons of their college careers, Mewhort's been able to sit back and follow on veteran-laden Ohio State teams.

The Toledo, Ohio native believes that he'll be just fine in his new role, thanks especially to the Buckeye captains who have come before him.

"I wouldn't say I've always found myself as a leader. There's a quote around here that leaders aren't born, they're made," Mewhort said. "I spent a lot of time around here in my younger years watching the older guys and the guys in the leadership positions. I'm trying to take what I've seen from those leaders and apply that now. I'm just doing the best I can to be a guy that that the staff and the younger guys and other guys on the team can depend on."

OSU offensive line coach Ed Warinner agreed that Mewhort's leadership style varies from that of Simon's, but also noted that that's not necessarily a bad thing. While Simon may have fired up the Buckeyes with an emotional speech following their victory over California last September, Warinner believes that Mewhort's rise from reserve guard to starting left tackle should be enough for teammates to want to emulate his practices.

"His leadership isn't about being real vocal. His leadership is just by example. He is a real pro at being in a meeting, paying attention, taking notes, asking questions, studying, lifting weights, doing extra, being on time. Just doing things the right way," Warinner said. "He plays well and so everybody says, 'Hey, I want to be like that guy. How do I be like that?' Well just follow him, watch him, do what he does. So he kind of leads by example more than just a vocal leader."

The thought of Mewhort being an Ohio State captain just 11 months ago would've seemed unfathomable, given that Meyer stripped him and former Buckeyes wide receiver Jake Stoneburner of their scholarships after they pled guilty to charges of disorderly conduct following an incident in which they ran from police in Shawnee Hills, Ohio. Both players earned their scholarships back by the start of the season, with Mewhort starting all 12 games for the Buckeyes at left tackle during their run to an undefeated season.

Warinner refuses to allow Mewhort's arrest to define him and said that he has no qualms about the fifth-year senior taking on a leadership position this season.

"Jack was a good kid before that incident, he just made a bad decision," Warinner said. "It wasn't like he's had to rehabilitate his whole life and his personality and his way of living and how he does everything. He just learned that you've got to be responsible and accountable all the time."

Mewhort insists that not only has he learned from his mistake, but that that it led to a maturation process that may end with him being recognized alongside Simon and Tebow as one of Meyer's all-time leaders.

"You have to be a guy that's trustworthy in all aspects of life," he said. "I made a bad decision and it really blew up on me. I grew up a lot from that and I changed my lifestyle a lot. It made me more mature, so I definitely learned a lot from that and I've grown from it."


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