Todd Porter: Boeckman has arrived, but without the cheeseburgers

Todd Porter

By Todd Porter

Gatehouse Ohio Group

COLUMBUS  There was little doubt in Todd Boeckman’s mind that he was going to be perfect Saturday. The 23-year-old Ohio State quarterback waited four years for this moment.

As Boeckman ran onto the field at Ohio Stadium to start a season of many questions for the Buckeyes, he could barely hear the ovation from 105,038 because he felt like he was walking on clouds.

“It’s tough to wait on,” Boeckman said. “When you’ve got a guy like Troy Smith in front of you, one of the greatest quarterbacks at Ohio State, it was definitely tough. I waited my time, and hopefully I’ll make the best of it.”

He did in his first game.

When Boeckman took his first snap, so many thoughts ran through his mind — Who’s blitzing? What’s the coverage? Is this really me out here? — it’s a wonder he remembered the snap count.

He did.

He delivered a 16-yard strike to Brian Robiskie. On the next play, Boeckman threw deep. It was Robiskie again, and the pass was perfect for 41 yards. For the third play in a row, the sure-handed Robiskie hauled in a quick 7-yard pass.

Boeckman had arrived.

But he didn’t join Kirk Barton’s club.

Barton is the only fifth-year senior on Ohio State’s team. He is a co-captain, and Friday night at the Blackwell Hotel, Barton and Boeckman were roommates.

It was an “Odd Couple” pairing. Saturday was Barton’s 30th start. He asked Boeckman if he’d be nervous Saturday.

“He said he would be,” Barton said. “I don’t get nervous any more. ... I’m the old fart around here. I told him to treat this game like it was our jersey scrimmage.”

Youngstown State’s defense hardly put up the kind of resistance OSU’s does in practice. That was obvious as Boeckman threw for 225 yards, two touchdowns and led the Buckeyes to a 38-6 win.

But Barton was a little worried about Boeckman. The quarterback declined a relatively exclusive invitation to Barton’s club.

It’s the double cheeseburger club. A group of teammates that Barton has invited the last three years orders the late snack of champion from Wendy’s.

“He turned it down like an idiot,” Barton said. “We invited Todd, and he said he might get a little belly ache. I was like, ‘You’ve got to learn, kid.’ ”

So Barton, Rory Nicol and Tyler Whaley went to town on their artery cloggers.

Boeckman watched “Goodfellas” with them. Then he got hungry. The smell of the burgers got to him.

“It’s a secret society,” Barton said. “My freshman year, I told Coach Tressel my favorite Ohio State tradition was at night after the final meetings and chapel on Friday, they had a snack bag for you, and they used to have double cheeseburgers from Wendy’s.”

Now there are Rice Krispy treats and chicken sandwiches. Boeckman opted for the healthy snack.

“Hey, we joked that we won a national title on Wendy’s double cheeseburgers,” Barton said. “So we had to start this secret society to keep it going.”

There is a secret to the society, too.

“They give you a lot of gas and a lot of energy the next day,” Barton said. “It’s like jet propulsion. ... Last year, Gonzo (Anthony Gonzalez) was in it. He runs a 4.3, and he was eating them. He went from a late-round pick to a first-rounder in one year from eating cheeseburgers.”

Boeckman wasn’t buying. This was the night before the biggest day of his life.

Boeckman tossed and turned all night. He couldn’t sleep. He had trouble eating. His mind raced.

“It seems like all this week it took forever for this game to get here,” Boeckman said. “I’ve been waiting for years for this opportunity. ... I woke up thinking how would I play, what was I gonna do, what was gonna happen, who was gonna blitz. All those little things.”

He talked to his dad. He remembered playing catch with his father, a football coach at St. Henry High School. Saturday would be one big game of catch in front of 105,000 people.

Meanwhile, as the starting quarterback lay awake, Barton slept like a baby. And the hotel room didn’t smell so pleasant.

That’s Canton Repository sports writer Todd Porter at (330) 580-8340 or e-mail: todd.porter@cantonrep.com