Two Buckeyes glad to finally be in spotlight

Sep 3, 2009 - 9:27 PM By RUSTY MILLER AP Sports Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio(AP) -- For five years Andre Amos and Austin Spitler have labored on the Ohio State football team, one perpetually injured and the other stuck behind a perpetual All-American.

With the No. 6 Buckeyes poised to open their season against Navy on Saturday, both find themselves in an unfamiliar place - the spotlight.

"Patience is not necessarily a virtue of young people," coach Jim Tressel said Thursday.

Except for maybe Amos and Spitler.

Asked during camp if he were going to start the first game, Amos said all the right things about being in a battle with Devon Torrence at cornerback. The reporter followed up by asking why he smiled as he answered.

"I'm just a happy guy," Amos said.

No wonder. He has played just 67 total minutes in his four previous years on campus because of a series of injuries. Now he's getting the call to start opposite Chimdi Chekwa against the Midshipmen, who have rushed for more yards than any other major college team a record four years in a row.

Amos looks forward to what amounts to his final shot at college football.

"Man, this means everything. That's all I can say," he said. "I played early and I've had two down seasons and now it's time to get back on track."

Spitler also will be a central figure in the game. Labeled a fifth-year senior, he graduated on Sunday with a degree in communications and will pursue a second degree in human development. He has been tapped to start at linebacker.

If you've never heard of Spitler, it's because he was locked away on the second team behind Butkus and Nagurski winner James Laurinaitis for each of the past four years. Laurinaitis seldom came out of games and only his graduation paved the way for Spitler to show what he can do.

"I obviously haven't played all that much here. I kind of like it that way, flying under the radar," said Spitler, selected as one of Ohio State's three captains. "(Waiting) has definitely paid off. We've got a long season ahead of us and a lot of goals ahead of us that are going to take a lot of hard work. But I'm truly grateful for the position I'm in. I can't wait for Saturday. It'll be one great day."

Their teammates have been pulling for them all along. They've noticed the hours of hard work, and in Amos' case the days and weeks spent rehabbing injuries.

"I'm so happy that 'Dre's doing well this year," safety Anderson Russell said. "I feel sympathy with him because we both had (torn) ACLs. Then last year he was kind of getting back in the flow of things and was thinking he was going to get some playing time and he had another injury. I'm just glad that he's healthy right now and everything's working out for him."

After a redshirt year, Amos had a promising freshman season in 2006 when he played in all 12 games. But he underwent knee surgery the next spring and saw only limited time the following fall. A year ago, he had shoulder problems that caused him to spend his time waiting and watching others hit the field.

"There's a great example of handling adversity," Tressel said. "He kept hanging in there. He just kept fighting through injury."

Spitler has spent his time as a special-teams demon but he always longed to be more than a guy who was cannon fodder during practice. More than anyone else, Laurinaitis, drafted in the second round by the St. Louis Rams, recognized how difficult the waiting around was on his close friend. He often complimented Spitler and said he could start on any other team in the nation.

When a reporter earlier this week joked that Laurinaitis was considering coming back to Ohio State, Spitler just laughed.

"In Austin's case, he did a nice job of embracing the fact that he really did have a role in special teams, which were 15-20 plays a game. He was on everything, making a difference there and he was always ready to play," Tressel said. "He loved where he was, he loved his teammates.

"But that takes a focused guy, to look at the big picture."

That goes double for Amos.

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