The Hudl highlights did not reveal why Demario McCall would be the enduring symbol of the program.
Sure, prospective coach Luke Durbin quickly liked what he saw from McCall’s sophomore film at North Ridgeville High School, but Durbin also had coached another Ohio State-caliber player at powerhouse Massillon.
“I use it all the time, every year when school starts I kind of go through a presentation just so kids get to know who I am,” Durbin told Lettermen Row. “I was also lucky enough to coach [former Ohio State standout] Gareon Conley and the first thing to know about Demario, he was the hardest-working student in the school in academics. He didn’t skip study halls, asked questions, did everything you’re supposed to do.
“[McCall’s example] was a huge benefit. I used him a whole bunch. Anytime I went to speak to student athletes, middle schools, camps, things like that, I was taking him with me. People think, ‘Oh, great athlete, feee ride to Ohio State.’ They don’t understand academically how hard you have to work to get there and stay.”
Athletically, Durbin knew immediately after watching the video that McCall possessed elite skills. It took all of the first play in the inaugural intrasquad game for Durbin to see it firsthand what helped McCall amass more than 4,500 rushing yards and 69 touchdowns across a record-setting prep campaign that preceded McCall’s signing with Ohio State.
“We did a little Blue-White scrimmage, the first live thing we did, and Demario took the pitch, made three guys miss and went untouched about 70 yards,” said Durbin, who with McCall’s help snapped North Ridgeville’s five-year playoff drought in 2014. “Before that, just even summer and camps and 7-on-7s, his ability to change direction without slowing down. So many guys, it takes them time going into and out of breaks. He could make those cuts and not lose any velocity.”
So much talent did Durbin see in McCall that, in fact, the first-year coach implored his star pupil to become a two-way player. Not only did McCall answer the challenge, but it provided one of McCall’s most humbling instances that he transformed into a signature moment.
“His entire junior year, he played both ways at corner, running back, quarterback, whatever he had to do,” Durbin said. “We’re playing North Olmsted, get up big, and they make a big comeback. Then they beat Demario for a touchdown at corner and he got a pass interference penalty as well, so they’re kicking off to us from the 45.
“The poor kid, he was just trying to put the ball in the end zone, but Demario got it at the 1, ran it 99 yards for a touchdown and won the game for us.”
McCall also would set the Lorain County all-time single-game rushing record under Durbin. As the team’s quarterback. Third-string quarterback, that is.
“He had about 450 yards, set the county rushing record,” Durbin said of McCall’s prodigious 445-yard effort that was generated on just 26 carries. “Our starting quarterback had an injury, our sophomore, and couldn’t play. Our backup who was a senior had a pulled groin.
“So we made the decision to put Demario at quarterback, and he went out and set the county rushing record.”
Still, McCall was destined to be a running back. The 5-foot-9, 198-pounder garnered consensus four-star status at North Ridgeville and earned a spot in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. In 20 career games at Ohio State, McCall has tallied nearly 1,000 all-purpose yards in a variety of roles for the Buckeyes.
This camp, McCall has worked to solidify a spot as complementary piece to incumbent tailback J.K. Dobbins.
“He’s doing a good job, working hard, and has grades good down there,” Durbin said. “He’s excited because he’s kind of got a home at running back.
“They had moved him around quite a bit, whatever he could do to try to help win games. But he’s back at his natural position.”
And if Demario McCall carves a role, Durbin’s scouting report might service notice for opposing teams.
“You’ve really got to track his hip, make sure you’ve got guys converging on him,” said the veteran coach. “If it’s just one guy in space, good luck. Demario’s got speed to burn and the best moves I’ve seen.”