'I want to make Ohio State as great as I can': Why 2025 3-star SAF Cody Haddad chose OSU

Growing up, Cody Haddad remembers football being everywhere he looked.

His father Drew and his uncle Eric were both Hall of Fame football players at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland and are two of five family members who played Division 1 college football. Cody has three family members with NFL experience, including Keith O’Neil, who won a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts, and Ed O’Neil: a former All-American linebacker at Penn State, who was the No. 8 overall pick in the 1974 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions.

Football was in Cody Haddad’s blood. And Haddad said he knew from an early age he would be next in line, even before he took the field for the first time at St. Ignatius.

“I’ve had that since I can’t remember,” Haddad told The Dispatch.

For Haddad, that path will go through Ohio State. The three-star athlete committed to the Buckeyes during the OSU spring game April 13 as the program’s second safety in the class along with New Jersey four-star DeShawn Stewart. 

But Ohio State was not the initial path. Ohio State, Haddad admits, was not on his radar until he was initially committed to Wisconsin. To Haddad, Ohio State was not a viable option until the Buckeyes hired safeties coach Matt Guerrieri.

How Matt Guerrieri changed Cody Haddad's recruitment

Guerrieri, Haddad said, changed everything in his recruitment.

Haddad said Guerrieri saw potential in the 6-foot-1, 180-pound safety that Ohio State never did before the coach’s hiring. He said Guerrieri “opened the eyes of a lot of the coaches there” when it came to the safety's potential, from Haddad’s downhill tackling ability to his versatility.

St. Ignatius football coach Ryan Franzinger said that potential was clear from Haddad’s sophomore year when he was aggressive and fearless on offense, defense and special teams, who had a speed — including a 10.73 100-meter dash — that was unparalleled to a player his size.

“Here’s this kid. He’s not terribly big,” Franzinger said. “He’s not a linebacker. Yet he hits harder and tackles better than anybody on the field."

St. Ignatius’s Cody Haddad makes a third-quarter touchdown reception over McKinley’s Geno Kelly, Friday, Nov. 3, 2023.
St. Ignatius’s Cody Haddad makes a third-quarter touchdown reception over McKinley’s Geno Kelly, Friday, Nov. 3, 2023.

Haddad missed the first eight games of his junior season at St. Ignatius after he broke both bones in his forearm during a preseason scrimmage against Canton McKinley. But in four games, Haddad made his presence felt. Per 247Sports, Haddad made 42 tackles, forced three fumbles and had four interceptions.

For Franzinger, when he talked to Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles about Haddad, there was no question.

“Jim asked me about Cody,” Franzinger said. “And I gave him two words: Silver Bullet.”

Ohio State extended an offer to Haddad Jan. 20, three days after his commitment to Wisconsin. And with the offer came a full-court press from the Buckeyes, leading to multiple on-campus visits and an in-school visit that included Guerrieri, Knowles, secondary coach Tim Walton and head coach Ryan Day.

“Ohio State has just blown every school out of the water,” Haddad said.

Haddad ended his commitment to the Badgers April 1 before committing to the Buckeyes nearly two weeks later as the No. 519 player and the No. 16 Ohio native in the 2025 class.

“It didn’t feel real,” Haddad said. “I never thought I would go there, honestly. I mean, I’m coming from Ohio. I hear about Ohio State all the time, and I’m like… ‘Wow, I can’t believe I’m actually doing this with the No. 1 program in the country. And I’m an in-state kid.’ ”

What Cody Haddad brings to Ohio State 2025 class

With Ohio State, Haddad said Guerrieri and Knowles have him as the defense’s field safety — what OSU calls the “adjuster” or “bandit” safety. It’s a role he has been used to since he began playing safety as a high school sophomore.

“I kind of have eyes over everything,” Haddad said. “I kind of like how I can see everything. I like coming down hill and fitting holes and just having space to roam and do my thing, I guess. I kind of like being the brains of the defense… I like being the one responsible for everything. If a touchdown happens, it’s also on me because they got past me.”

As an Ohio State commit, Haddad said he doesn’t feel pressure. To him, it’s all just noise he has to block out.

The noise is familiar, Haddad said. He said he heard it as a sophomore at St. Ignatius when he was called up to varsity, hearing that it was only because of his father. He said it’s what he’s heard in the comment sections of social media posts announcing his commitment to Ohio State. To him it’s all the same. It’s fuel. It’s motivation.

And whether it’s preparing for his senior season at St. Ignatius or recruiting to build Ohio State’s 2025 class, Haddad said he has one goal in mind.

“I want to make Ohio State as great as I can,” Haddad said. “I don’t want to lose. I’ll do everything I can not to lose.”

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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio State football recruiting: Why 2025 safety Cody Haddad chose OSU