'People idolize how he lives': Ohio State captain inspires as he battles back from fourth ACL tear

·5 min read

The call home last week from Kamryn Babb to tell his family he’d been named an Ohio State captain included the tears you’d expect after a difficult journey like his.

Being voted by teammates as an official team leader despite a career interrupted by four torn ACLs should induce emotion.

But it was another call home, one that followed the latest injury this spring, that gives insight as to why teammates revere the redshirt junior wide receiver so much. Tyrone and Amanda Babb were on vacation with their two other kids on the beach in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, when Kamryn dialed. Amanda, who is Kamryn’s stepmom, answered Tyrone’s cell because he was swimming in the ocean.

When Kamryn sensed the fun they were having, he didn’t want to disrupt that by telling them of his latest setback.

“We were already planning to go to Columbus that weekend to finish our spring break and see Kamryn," Amanda recalled, "and he said, ‘Well, I'll just tell you guys when you get to Columbus because I don't want to ruin your spring break.' I’m like, ‘Oh, no, Kamryn. You’re going to tell us.’ ”

Kamryn did, but only reluctantly because he didn’t want to burden them.

2021-22 college football bowl predictions: How the postseason should break down

2021 Heisman Trophy predictions: Wide-open field littered with quarterbacks

Big Ten power rankings: Can anyone beat Ohio State?

“That’s Kamryn,” Tyrone Babb said. “He’s like that.”

Kamryn Babb ready to play role for Buckeyes, whatever that may be

It’s unclear whether Babb will be able to play this season, but his selflessness and cheery perseverance have already made an impact. Two weeks ago, Babb gave an inspirational speech to the team after being asked to do so by Buckeyes coach Ryan Day.

“He's been through a lot,” fellow receiver Chris Olave said. “It's a huge story, one of the best stories out here. Kam is one of my close friends.”

Olave and Babb were part of Ohio State’s 2018 recruiting class. Babb was a four-star prospect from St. Louis. Olave was a three-star recruit from California. But while Olave blossomed late in his freshman year and is now considered perhaps the top receiver in the country, Babb has endured injury after injury.

“He could have played from Day 1, but he got set back with a lot of ACL injuries,” Olave said. “To see him come out a better person is huge to me.”

Babb credits his family, teammates, coaches and the medical staff for their support, but he derives much of his strength from his religious faith.

“The root of it all is Jesus Christ for me,” he said. “That's my foundation. He's my everything.”

Babb first tore an ACL during his senior season in high school. He did the same thing each of his first two years at Ohio State. Babb played in seven games last year, though he didn’t catch a pass. He was hoping to break into the rotation this year when he tore his right ACL for the second time.

At first, he was hoping it was a minor injury, but experience told him otherwise. Babb wouldn’t be human if he didn’t have “Why me?” moments. He acknowledges having tough days and questioned whether he should give up on his football dreams.

But he still has faith he’ll eventually be able to show his ability.

“I think I can be a very explosive and dynamic player,” he said. “But I just want to play football and be here for Ohio State and for the football team any way I can.”

Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Kamryn Babb (18) celebrates following the Big Ten Championship football game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020. Ohio State won 22-10.
Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Kamryn Babb (18) celebrates following the Big Ten Championship football game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020. Ohio State won 22-10.

For now, that means providing leadership, both by example and vocally.

“Just being a voice and stepping out of my comfort zone, I think that's the biggest challenge for me,” Babb said. “Even though I haven't played, what can I say to motivate and inspire guys, and just how can I lead with my actions as well?”

He has already done that.

“People idolize how he lives,” Ohio State wide receivers coach Brian Hartline said. “It's always a challenge to do right and choose right and be kind and be thoughtful, and I just think he embodies that. He's obviously made a large impact on a large amount of guys.

“It's just about being consistent. I think that he's a very consistent man that operates at a very high level — academically, socially, spiritually.”

Babb is a three-time OSU Scholar-Athlete.

Olave also was named one of Ohio State’s six captains. When each selection was announced, the room cheered. But it was louder for Babb.

“I was definitely surprised but very grateful and just thankful for all my teammates and coaches,” Babb said. “It's just an honor to hear all the names that come before me. Especially not playing as much as I've wanted to play, just leaving my mark off the field, it's been a blessing. I'm just very thankful for the opportunity.”

Contact Bill Rabinowitz at Brabinowitz@dispatch.com or on Twitter: @brdispatch

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio State WR Kamryn Babb inspires as football team captain and leader