Terry McLaurin excited to face former OSU teammate Jeff Okudah originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
In Week 3, Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin had the chance to battle against his former Ohio State teammate in Browns cornerback Denzel Ward. The wideout put up admirable numbers, but it was the cornerback who got the last laugh with a Cleveland victory.
Seven weeks later, McLaurin will once again be covered by one of his former Buckeye counterparts. On Sunday, the newly-appointed team captain will line up against 2020 No. 3 overall pick Jeff Okudah, someone McLaurin considers a "little brother" to him.
Speaking with local media on Thursday, McLaurin said the matchup against Okudah is one both he and the Lions first-round pick have circled on the calendar for quite some time.
"Me and Jeff have been talking about [Sunday] since the beginning of the season since we saw each other on the schedule," McLaurin said. "Jeff is a very athletic corner. He's long, he can run and he's very smart. We had our share of battles at Ohio State...Seeing Jeff out there is going to be really cool."
Coming from a storied program like Ohio State, it's not uncommon that McLaurin will face some of his former teammates. The Buckeyes consistently churn out multiple NFL draft picks every season; heck, the first three picks in the 2020 Draft all wore the Scarlett and Gray at one point in their college careers.
But for McLaurin, this battle against Okudah is different than any of those prior. Although McLaurin was a few years older, the two had plenty of heated battles in practice every day while teammates at Ohio State.
"We would go at each other every single day; it wasn't really pretty on the field," McLaurin said.
When McLaurin had first arrived in Columbus a few years prior, defensive backs Eli Apple and Gareon Conley -- both future first-round picks -- had their way with him in practice. Battling against Apple and Conley gave McLaurin his "that first taste of college football," saying it was then when he realized what it took to play at Ohio State.
So, when Okudah arrived on campus in 2017 as a highly-recruited cornerback, McLaurin wanted to give the then-freshman a taste of what he went through when he first joined the Buckeyes a few years prior.
"I remember it was like his first day there, him and Shaun Wade were like the No. 1 and No. 2 corners," McLaurin said. "So I remember my first 1-on-1 going against Jeff, I threw him on the ground. It was completely legal. But he got up and was kind of confused, looking for the flag. His position coach was telling him 'that's how college football is now.'"
Okudah did bounce back, though, and quickly. That stood out to McLaurin, as he knew then that the cornerback was a true competitor and had what it took to excel at the position.
"I remember that next week, he made a play on the ball against me and he was really excited," McLaurin said. "That's the type of stuff you want to see, especially out of a young guy. A guy who keeps competition, even though you may get knocked down."
Washington pass rusher Chase Young -- who the Burgundy and Gold selected second overall in the 2020 Draft and one pick before Okudah was drafted by Detroit -- had a front-row seat at practice to watch McLaurin and Okudah's daily battles at Ohio State.
Young is expecting a similar dogfight on Sunday to those that took place in Columbus, too.
"It was always a battle at Ohio State. That's what we do. It's always competition," Young said. "They used to always go head-to-head, toe-to-toe. You know, DBs and receivers, they used to always get in little [scrums] and battles in practice...Jeff and Terry, they used to go at it at practice, so it'll be the same thing just on the next level."
McLaurin and Okudah are close friends, but the wideout doesn't envision any love to be lost on the field. No. 17 also doesn't plan to do any trash-talking to his 'little brother,' either, but won't shy away from it if the cornerback starts barking.
"I'm not really a trash talker. I only talk trash when people talk to me first," McLaurin said. "But I don't think it'll be like that type of trash talk. But if he makes a play, he'll probably give me that look. And if I make a play, I'll probably do the same."
But after the clock hits zero, though, there will be nothing but respect between the former Buckeyes.
"I've tried to encourage him throughout the year, I know he's had some ups and downs," McLaurin said. "At the end of the day, I still see myself as a friend and a big brother for him. He's a competitor and I'm a competitor, so when we're in between those white lines, we're definitely going to compete."