“What has Beanie Wells meant? Oh, man. We wouldn’t be right here with all of you if it weren’t for Beanie Wells,” Jim Tressel said. “I think he’s really grown.”
A few weeks before bruising Beanie Wells took his first handoff as Ohio State’s starting tailback, Jim Tressel pulled him aside for a conversation. It was the kind of thing a head coach says to a key player before a season begins. Tressel, looking up and into Wells’ eyes, challenged the 6-foot-1, 235-pound back to develop something. A warrior’s mentality. What Tressel meant by that was ignoring pain, ignoring bruises. There is, after all, a difference between being injured and being hurt. So Wells has played with a severe ankle injury all season that won’t get better without rest. Against Michigan, Wells ran over defenders. He ran past them. He cut around them. He did it with tears in his eyes. A Buckeye legend was created that cold, wet early winter’s day. He hit the Wolverines for a career-high 39 carries and 222 yards. To date, Wells has the second-best sophomore rushing season in OSU history -- behind only Archie Griffin. “What has Beanie Wells meant? Oh, man. We wouldn’t be right here with all of you if it weren’t for Beanie Wells,” Tressel said. “I think he’s really grown.” A couple of weeks after his Michigan performance, Buckeye teammates voted Wells the Most Valuable Player. “It’s great that my teammates voted me that award,” Wells said, almost too bashful to mention it. “It’s a tremendous honor. I was really surprised by that.” Wells has run for 1,463 yards and 14 touchdowns on 254 carries. He replaced fellow Summit County native Antonio Pittman, who left a year early for the NFL. “We lose Antonio Pittman and gained Beanie Wells,” right tackle Kirk Barton said. “He’s as good as anyone.” Wells speaks short and softly. So when he speaks, he leads. He did it before the Michigan game to get his teammates in the right frame of mind. Wells did it again during Ohio State’s bowl media day, when he essentially said he was tired of hearing Ohio State get trashed. “I’m tired of hearing people talk about how Ohio State has no speed,” Wells said. “Ohio State’s not this. Ohio State is this. We are Ohio State, and we’re going to play whoever.” That’ll be LSU on Jan. 7 in the BCS National Championship game at the Superdome in New Orleans. While some believe the Tigers run defense is the strength of the team, Wells doesn’t see it that way. LSU is allowing 103 yards a game on the ground, good for 14th in the country. “I think if you really look at the film, teams could run non LSU,” Wells said. “So I really wouldn’t say that’s one of their strengths.” What is fresh in Wells’ mind is Darren McFadden leading Arkansas to a 385-yard rushing day against LSU. Florida and Kentucky both ran for better than their season averages on the Tigers. Ole Miss hit them for 201 yards. If the Buckeyes are going to have success on offense, Wells will need to be their warrior again. If that happens, he will start the 2008 season as a Heisman Trophy favorite. “I haven’t focused on it ... or thought about that,” Wells said. “My whole focus right now is gearing up for LSU. Just going out there to New Orleans and being the best team we can possibly be.” Wells remembers a year ago when Ohio State went to Arizona, fat off its own ranking, the banquet circuit and press clippings. They weren’t themselves, Wells said. “This year, we’re a lot more focused,” Wells said. “We’re not 12-0 as we were last year. We’re 11-1, and we know what it feels like to lose. We don’t like that feeling at all, and we don’t want to feel that ... on the way home (from New Orleans).” He doesn’t want Cajun food. He doesn’t care to stop by Emeril’s. He could care less about Bourbon Street. “Becoming a national champion,” Wels said. “That’s about it.” Wells doesn’t waste words, nor carries. For more on Ohio State’s preparations for the All State Sugar Bowl, read Todd Porter’s blog at www.cantonrep.com/blogs Reach Repository sports writer Todd Porter at (330) 580-8340 or firstname.lastname@example.org.