September 2, 2009

Spitler's one chance has come

COLUMBUS - When the list of three Ohio State captains was released late last week, there were a few surprises when it comes to the way it eventually ended up turning out.

One of those surprises was the inclusion of senior linebacker Austin Spitler on the list, who has yet to start a game during his five years with Ohio State.

Spitler, who has spent his entire career as a reserve (most recently behind All-American linebacker James Laurinaitis), was simply honored to be put into this position.

"I wasn't shocked, no. Was I honored and truly grateful to be in this situation? Yes," Spitler said Tuesday. "It really is unbelievable to look at the guys in the past who have been in this situation. It makes you realize how special this is."

Having been patient his entire career to finally get the opportunity to start for the Buckeyes, it almost came crashing down in fall camp when he sustained an injury to his leg.

Because it looks like Spitler will finally get his chance to start this season - at strong side linebacker - the injury could have been detrimental to his career at Ohio State.

Spitler admitted it was certainly something that caused some angst on his part.

"It was kind of hard (initially) not knowing was going wrong," Spitler said. "I was relieved, I guess you could say, when I got the MRI and it showed that it strained my calf. It was scary. I was like, 'wow, going through this and I have been through all these hard times and this was supposed to be my year and now I get hurt again.' But rehab went well and now I am ready to go again."

"It all started in my knee. There was pain in my knee and then it moved to the back of my knee, and one day it was feeling a little tight or whatever and it popped when I was doing a little pass rush," Spitler said. "But I am ready now."

So now it looks as if Spitler is back on track to be the starting strong side linebacker for the Buckeyes, but now he has a whole other challenge: filling in for the departed Laurinaitis.

For now, however, Spitler is just enjoying the fact that he will be starting his first game as a captain for the Buckeyes.

"It is a great feeling and I have waited a long time for this," Spitler said. "I have obviously been behind a great player in James (Laurinaitis), but I am really looking forward (to starting my first game as a captain)."

Having his entire career be summed up in one season is something that Spitler understands is the case when it comes to his time at Ohio State, but he said he isn't feeling any added pressure."

"I prepared these past three seasons as if I was going to be the starter and as if I was going to be going out there and playing every down," Spitler said. "I think that really helped me mature and prepare myself for this season."

In his final season, now is the only time for Spitler to make his legacy at Ohio State. There are no second chances and there are no do-overs. This is it.

He is ready.

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