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Those of you that are even casual Ohio State fans already knew about five-star freshman quarterback Kyle McCord. Those that didn’t found out last week when the New Jersey native became just the fourth ever true freshman to start at quarterback for the Buckeyes. And yeah, he did just fine, breaking the all-time passing record for a first-time starter under center for OSU with 319 yards and two touchdowns.
But maybe what you didn’t know is that the trip to Piscataway to face Rutgers on Saturday is a pretty unique and surreal one for McCord and his father. That’s because the elder McCord, Derek, played quarterback for the Scarlet Knights from 1988-1992.
That means this game is a little different than any other on the schedule for the family. There are obviously the rooting interests for the alma mater, but that is trumped for one week with Kyle’s Ohio State team invading familiar territory.
We caught up with Derek McCord just a couple of days before the game to get a pulse on what this means for him, Kyle, and his family, and it was clear that it was going to be unique, exciting, and a busy in and around the McCord house too. In fact, there’s not only Kyle’s family, but about 60 other family members and friends that will be attending the game at SHI Stadium. All there to see Kyle play against dad’s old team.
“That’ll definitely be unique, and something different,” said Derek McCord. “I pull for Rutgers, and will continue to pull for Rutgers 11 out of 12 games a year, except when they play Ohio State. But, it’ll be a pretty neat feeling just to get back. I’ve already been contacted by a bunch of my old teammates who have been following Kyle, so it’ll be good to be back and see them. It was pretty neat just to hear from guys that have been pulling for Kyle and to just meet up this weekend.”
One might wonder if there was ever a part of father or son that wanted Kyle to go to Rutgers as a legacy recruit, and of course, there was. In fact, the Scarlet Knights offered Kyle a scholarship his freshman year before Ohio State even came into the picture. And as tempting as it might have been, when Kyle began showing his abilities and became a five-star talent with almost every program drooling to get him on campus, the family had to do what was right for Kyle, his development, and future.
“Ohio State became a pretty clear leader pretty quickly after they offered,” said the elder McCord. “Would it have been cool for him to go to Rutgers? Yeah. But, at the time — and I hope Rutgers becomes a force in the Big Ten and becomes second every year behind Ohio State in the Big Ten East — there was just too big of a gap when you look at what Ohio State could offer compared to Rutgers … We really weren’t looking too much at Ohio State, and then Ryan Day got the job and offered him the next day I believe. And after Kyle visited with coach Day, and coach Day expressed that he was at the top of the board as a quarterback for the class, then I did a little more research on coach Day and Ohio State, we just thought it was a no-brainer.”
Sep 25, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Kyle McCord (6) drops to throw during the first quarter against the Akron Zips at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
And speaking of the head coach for OSU, if you ever had any doubt about what it means to have Ryan Day running the program in terms of persuading some of the best high school quarterbacks to come to Ohio State, just know that he was one of the main reasons — if not the main reason — Kyle decided to commit to Ohio State. So much so that — get ready for this Buckeye fans — the family decided to commit to OSU despite rooting for “That Team up North” as a bit of a second team they followed.
In fact, Jim Harbaugh offered was one of the first five programs to offer Kyle, well before Ohio State did. But don’t worry, in case you wondered, the McCords are all Ohio State now because Derek implored me to write the name as “TTUN” as opposed to Michigan. So rest easy. But back to how instrumental Day was to landing Kyle, it was clear in talking to his father Derek, the respect for what Day could do for quarterbacks trumped almost everything else.
“It’s a testament to Ryan Day being a quarterback guy himself,” said Derek. “We really looked at what he did with Dwayne Haskins in 2018 as the offensive coordinator, throwing for 50 touchdown passes and breaking all the Big Ten passing records, then getting drafted in the first round. That was proof in the pudding right there … After Kyle went out there and met with coach Day and the staff, he really just loved everything about it, so it made the decision pretty easy. That’s why he committed in April of his sophomore year and we just shut it down from there.”
So, what a journey that has begun for Kyle McCord and his family. We won’t know what kind of chapters Kyle will write when the book is finished for him at Ohio State, but if it’s a good one, there’s a good chance there were some pretty special things happening on the banks of the Olentangy.
Still, though, there are deep roots in New Jersey and with Rutgers, even if he’s on a path to what he and the family hope is stardom and development elsewhere, at one of the blue-bloods of the sport nonetheless. He’s coming home this weekend, and his dad Derek says Kyle’s ready for the moment, and ready to soak it all in.
“I think he’s really excited. He hasn’t been home in a while so it’s nice to get him back to Jersey and back to his roots. We got a bunch of friends and family coming to the game so he’s excited to be out there in front of them.”
So, while you’re watching the game on Saturday, just remember that Kyle, his father Derek, and a whole gang of McCords’ family and friends are cheering Ohio State on from the stands. We know it’s likely C.J. Stroud’s game on Saturday for now, but what a cool moment it would be for Kyle to get some time in the game and even throw a touchdown pass against the team and program his dad played for.
That’s a story within the game I know I’ll be rooting for. Maybe you will too.