'Nobody cares' -- OSU lineman, Lakota West grad Tshabola explains spring mantra

Apr. 1—COLUMBUS — Tegra Tshabola is living by two words this spring.

"Nobody cares," he said Monday morning.

This was no April Fools' joke.

He was not being facetious or taking a dim view of his support.

The sophomore from Lakota West simply is locked onto the task of getting better while competing for playing time on the Ohio State offensive line.

"Nobody cares how you feel," he explained. "Nobody cares about where you think you should be. Nobody cares what you're going through. Just take the field and go as hard as you can because too many people are invested in you to not go hard. Too many people invested in everybody on this field.

"Many steps have to take place us to get here, so to not go hard is almost a disrespect to those guys."

Hearing that Tshabola was taking that approach seemed to please Ohio State offensive line coach Justin Frye.

"You gotta come out, step out and do your job," Frye said. "(The game of football) doesn't care about anything off the field."

He acknowledged that can "sound negative and harsh," but Frye also pointed out the upside.

"If you just spin your tone, like isn't it beautiful that the game doesn't care?" Frye said. "It doesn't care about your skin color, about your socio economic background, where you've come from. If you just want to do it the right way in the 53 and a third (yards of the field), the game will love you back."

Football is a violent game for all 22 players on the field, but it is especially so for those who play in the trenches.

And while defensive linemen can aspire to the fame and glory that comes with putting up stats — tackles for loss, sacks — there is not so much tangible success offensive linemen can achieve.

That means they have to embrace the grind more so than most because there is not much more reward, and that is something Frye sees several of his younger players doing, including Tshabola.

"He's taken that approach," Frye said. "He wants to come in and be a guy, so he's fighting, clawing and scratching every day. So when he makes a mistake, he's trying to correct it. When he does it well, he's trying to enhance it, and that's what competitive people do and that's what he's showed up to do. So I it's good that he said that."

Tshabola battled for a starting tackle spot last spring before ending up part of the second unit last fall.

Four starters return, so only one is up for grabs this spring, but the coaching staff has stressed the importance of developing depth at many positions for what they hope is a season that lasts 16 or 17 games with the expanding College Football Playoff.

Starting last year would have been ahead of schedule for Tshabola, as it was for classmate Carson Hinzman, who took his lumps as the No. 1 center.

"Those guys are going into year three and that's when you really start to figure it out," Frye said. "Your body, the speed of the game, the technique, the fundamentals."

Tshabola described his mindset this spring in somewhat grim terms, but he also came across upbeat.

He said he is getting support off the field from the parents of someone who knows what he is going through: Former Ohio State offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr.

They are longtime friends since playing youth football together, but Tshabola said he is trying to give Johnson space as he goes through his first full offseason as a member of the Arizona Cardinals.

Johnson's parents, Monica and Mike Daniels, are there for him, though.

"You can feel the kindheartedness when they answer and when they start to give you advice and pick you up anytime you speak," Tshabola said. "It's mostly just them telling me how proud they are of me. Every day they talk to me because I've known them since I was a little kid.

"I'm very confident in my ability and all I can do is try to take the field and get better every day with coaching, drills and applying meetings to the field."