MOUNT VERNON —While growing up, nearly every kid dreams of playing a sport in a big-time arena. Whatever the sport, kids dream of playing for their favorite college or pro team.
Mount Vernon’s Russell Doup will get to live that dream soon — only not in the sport he envisioned. Doup played basketball and baseball at Mount Vernon High School, hoping to one day play one of them in college. But, an injury to a classmate changed Doup’s course in a hurry.
Nick Sahr, who was the kicker for the Yellow Jacket football team, was injured in the third game of his senior year and wasn’t able to kick any more. Some friends of Doup asked him if he’d be interested in kicking for the football team since he had some experience kicking while playing soccer a few years back.
“After Nick got hurt, I had some friends ask if I wanted to kick. I decided to go for it and have some fun,” Doup said.
Doup had more than just some fun for the Yellow Jacket football team and now it’s turned into the chance of a lifetime. Doup’s strong leg impressed several colleges and this fall he will begin his college career as an invited walk-on at Ohio State University.
“I’m real excited. It’s kind of hard to believe. A year ago I never thought I’d play football, let alone play at Ohio State,” Doup said.
As an invited walk-on, Doup won’t get to practice with the Buckeyes until he starts school on Sept. 21. But, once he’s there, he’ll be part of the team, working out in the Woody Hayes Athletic Facility and practicing with the other players. He’ll red-shirt his first year with a chance to earn a scholarship after that.
Doup had considered playing football earlier in high school, but a rib injury his sophomore year cut short that idea as well as his time as a soccer player. He decided his junior year to focus on baseball and basketball, the two sports he thought he might have a shot at playing in college.
He found success quickly on the gridiron, so Doup and his father, Kelly, decided it might be an avenue worth pursuing. They hooked up with Dan Stultz, a former OSU kicker who runs kicking camps, to get some lessons. Stultz thought Doup had a strong enough leg to kick in college and encouraged him to look into it. So, his dad and his mom, Alice, shot a video of Russell kicking the football from different distances and angles and sent it out to several colleges, including Ashland and some Mid-American Conference schools. On a whim, they decided to shoot for the moon and sent the video to Ohio State, Penn State, Notre Dame, North Carolina State and Vanderbilt. A few days later, Doup received a call from OSU director of football operations Greg Gillum, asking him if he would be interested in walking on at OSU.
“They invited me to spring practice and I watched them practice. I really liked it. I got to tour the Woody Hayes facility, which was really cool, and talk with coach (Jim) Tressel, who was really neat,” Doup said. “Then, I watched a kicking and punting competition where every play was a special teams play, either a return or a field goal. Once that happened, I decided I would really like to play and join the team, so I went for the long shot.”
Doup considered Ashland and Ohio University before finally settling on OSU.
“I also considered Ashland because Derek Baker, a good friend of mine, is going to play there. Also, OU because I thought maybe I could play there. But, I decided in the end to go to Ohio State because of all the training I’d get. I’ll work with some of the best trainers and it will help me get better and be the best I can be.”
As he gets ready to enroll at OSU, where he will major in business finance and minor in international business, Doup spends his time working out and practicing with Stultz on the fine art of kicking. Since all he did was kick off for the Jackets, Doup has spent a lot of time working on field goals.
“I’ve never kicked a field goal in a game. If I get to kick a field goal in a game, my first one will be for Ohio State,” Doup said. “I’m real excited. It’ll be a new experience going off to college. It makes it nice being part of a team when I go because there will be plenty of people around to help me adjust.
“All of this is happening because I was able to kick (at Mount Vernon). If it weren’t for coach (Gary) Keller giving me the chance, I wouldn’t have this kind of opportunity.”