Mitch Rossi talks about memories of Ohio State football back
When Mitch Rossi caught a touchdown pass in the second quarter Ohio State wins at Rutgers on Saturday, the reception marked a milestone in the career of the fifth-year elder and former walk-in.
It was the first time he reached the end zone. A few hours later, after the game, he hugged his parents in celebration.
“My dad, I gave him a big hug,” Rossi said. “He had a few tears in his eyes. My mother was also quite emotional. It was a really, really special moment.
But the capture also remained a highlight for the Buckeyes due to the origin of the play.
As quarterback CJ Stroud lined up under center Luke Wypler on the 1-yard line, Rossi crouched in a three-point position behind him, mirroring the posture of a full-back in an I-formation.
Once he took the snap, Stroud faked a transfer to running back Master Teague, took a few steps to the right side of the pocket and threw a pass to Rossi, who had rushed to the apartment. .
The full-back has been a position on the brink of extinction in college football with spreading offenses ruling the sport.
Ohio State went almost a decade without one on their roster – their last fullback was Zach Boren before moving to linebacker in 2012.
Rossi is not a rear in himself. The official team roster and other documents mention it as a close team. But his hit at Rutgers evoked memories of its tradition.
“It’s just cool that they even have the whole thing in there,” Rossi said. “I guess that’s kind of a testament to a lot of hard work I’ve done.”
A former high school rugby player in Franklin, Tennessee, Rossi brings an uncompromising style that matches the demands of full-backs and tight ends.
He also does not claim to be his position. When a reporter asked him this week what his name should be, he had no preference.
“You can call me whatever you want,” he said.
Rossi sees his role as the most similar to an H-back, which lines up much like a tight end, but out of the line of scrimmage.
Buckeyes coach Ryan Day considers him capable of juggling multiple responsibilities, noting that Rossi was also a high school running back before moving to the close end when he joined the program in 2017.
“He’s got good ball skills,” Day said. “He has a good football IQ. He understands how we are trying to attack the defenses. He does a good job in the passing game and the running game. So a lot of versatility there. And having a mature guy who’s been there helps us.
Despite its impact, a role with the Buckeyes this fall was not guaranteed.
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Rossi, who has spent the previous four seasons as a substitute, graduated in finance in May. If he was to return for a fifth season at Ohio State, that would mean enrolling in graduate school and facing higher tuition fees.
“I had to be a scholarship holder to be able to come back,” he said.
So before this season, the Buckeyes put him on the stock market.
“There are a lot of other guys on the team who are very deserving,” said Rossi, who mentioned nearly half a dozen extras such as Ryan Batsch, Chris Booker, Xavier Johnson, Cade Kacherski and Sam. Wiglusz. “I was just in a little different situation from them.”
But that put him on the right track to come back and have times like Saturday.
It might not be the last time Rossi touches the ball either, as he finds his role.
“Every week it seems like it’s going up a bit,” he said, “and I’m just trying to prove myself. It’s good to trust and jump into the game early these days. It’s exciting, I try to be good in special teams, all the units I play in and whatever tight full-back role I fit into, that’s great.