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Walk-on Terpin savors big-time experiences at Ohio

| Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, 9:29 p.m.
South Hills Record
#21 Mike Terpin
South Hills Record
Mike Terpin from Thomas Jefferson makes a tackle for the Ohio University football team. Photo | Courtesy of Ohio University athletics

It happened more than a month ago, but it's still on Mike Terpin's mind. In fact, it is something he will never forget.

The Ohio University football team is 5-0 this season, but one win stands out above the rest to the redshirt freshman defensive back — the 24-14 victory at Penn State.

“It was a great feeling,” said Terpin, a Thomas Jefferson High School graduate. “It was awesome being out there, on the sidelines, and really feeling the team believe in ourselves and come from behind like we did. That really was ‘team building.' It showed us we're capable of doing whatever we set out to do.”

That concept of doing whatever one sets out to do is applicable across Terpin's entire football career.

Terpin was a quality player with the Jaguars but, at 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds, he wasn't a highly sought-after recruit.

But that did not deter him from pursuing his dream of playing major college football at the NCAA Division I level.

Rather than playing at a Division II or Division III school where he would likely earn far more playing time, Terpin opted to walk on at Ohio.

“I didn't have any scholarship offers, and playing Division I football was always something I wanted to do,” he said. “Ohio U was always at the top of my list.”

As a walk-on, Terpin is not attending school on scholarship. Obviously, walk-on players do not receive the financial benefits of being a scholarship player.

Additionally, they also are at the bottom of the pecking order in terms of playing time and opportunities, yet they endure the same practice and training workload as the scholarship players.

“There are a lot of interesting challenges being a walk-on. You have to really work to make a name for yourself, and earn the respect of your coaches and teammates,” Terpin said. “But it's all worth it if you love the game.”

The reward for all of the hard work comes when those “big-time college football” moments and precious opportunities to get into the games come along.

Terpin joined the team last year and redshirted as a true freshman.

This year, he's deep on the depth chart but has played in two games, including in the Bobcats' 37-34 win over Massachusetts.

While he didn't play in the Penn State game, that contest certainly falls into the “big-time college football” experience category for Terpin.

“I will always remember that,” he said.

And while the Penn State memories and in-game snaps have been gratifying, Terpin knows, at this time, his primary job is on the Bobcats' scout team. It's a job in which he has a lot of pride.

The scout team studies film of that week's opponent. They then work to replicate the opponent's plays and formations during practice to help prepare the starters and primary backups for game day.

“We meet as a scout team defensive unit, and we go over the things they (the opponents) do. We try to model our plays after them,” Terpin said. “We're trying to give the starters a good look.”

There's another goal of most scout team players.

“You're also trying to get the coaches' attention,” Terpin said.

All around the country there are examples of walk-on players earning more and more playing time, and sometimes even earning scholarships.

Terpin hopes to be another example of this one day.

For now, though, he is focused on his role in what could be a magical season. Not only are the Bobcats undefeated, the rest of their schedule is against manageable Mid-American Conference opponents.

“We're just trying to take it one game at a time,” Terpin said. “We want to win the MAC and go to a good bowl game.”

Next up for Ohio is a home game with Buffalo this Saturday at noon. The game will be televised on ESPN Game Plan and ESPN3.com.

Brian Knavish is a freelance writer.

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