COLUMBUS, Ohio — On a recent evening in the Ohio State football facility, Buckeyes co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell picks up his iPhone and glances at a few of the 275 unread text messages. He shrugs his massive shoulders and smiles at the small victories of life https://www.scarletknightscollegeshop.com/166-Knights_Rani_Abdulaziz_Jersey. Earlier in the week he had as many as 512.Fickell, 43, is caught in the middle of two surreal opportunities. Hes preparing Ohio States defense for the College Football Playoff semifinal against No. 2 Clemson. Hes simultaneously beginning his career as the head coach at Cincinnati, a job he earned on Dec. 10 after arriving at Ohio State in 1992 and serving as either a player, assistant or interim coach for all but three years since.Article continues below ...Rebels with a wrong cause Minnesota players chose wrong case to take a standFickell has arguably had more impact on the Buckeye program than any single figure the past two decades. And his relentless dedication to Ohio State ended up being the biggest obstacle in his career development. Hed done so much for the place, and the place in turn meant so much to him, that leaving the reciprocal comforts proved daunting. Its a blessing and a curse,” Fickell said. The blessing is that you are at Ohio State. The blessing is that its where you went to school and you are really good. The curse is you arent pushed to leave and to prepare yourself.”To understand the mentality Luke Fickell will bring to Cincinnati, its best to look back at his wrestling career. In high school, Fickell compiled a 1060 record as a wrestler, including pinning all 12 of his postseason opponents his senior year within three minutes. As a football player, Fickell was the embodiment of a blue-collar player. His father, Pat, is a Vietnam veteran who worked in a rail yard much of his career. Luke eventually ditched wrestling for football and famously played in the 1997 Rose Bowl with a torn pectoral muscle as a senior. But he never abandoned the wrestling mentality, focusing only on whats directly in front of him—the next game plan, recruiting call or film clip.That changed this off-season, when Fickell made a conscious decision to start exploring head coaching opportunities. Free time isnt easy to come by for Fickell, as he and his wife, Amy, have six kids between 2 and 14 https://www.scarletknightscollegeshop.com/139-Knights_Izaia_Bullock_Jersey. But he set time aside this summer to build a coaching philosophy and core values, and lay out exactly how hed run a program. Luke has been ready for a head coaching job,” said Rutgers coach Chris Ash, who worked with Fickell as a coordinator at Ohio State. He hadnt made up his mind he wanted to do it.”Fiesta Bowl preview No. 2 Clemson No. 3 Ohio StateOnce he did, Fickell reluctantly began to market himself. Even former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, who treated self-promotion with the same disdain he did sideline fashion, told Fickell the game had changed. The old method of doing a good job and waiting for someone to notice wouldnt work anymore. Fickell changed agents, met with Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and put the word out through influential Buckeyes in the media world like Kirk Herbstreit, Joey Galloway and Chris Spielman. Smith called Fickel non-promotional,” a great quality to have in a top assistant. Fickell had to act counter to his instincts and put himself out there.In past years when schools would call Fickell, he viewed it more as an inconvenience during the throes of recruiting and bowl preparation. This time, Cincinnati called him on a Tuesday night and they met for the interview at his house that Thursday. Fickell was flying back from a recruiting trip in Dallas that evening and landed at 615 p.m. His interview began at 7 p.m. in his home. Fickell had just two days to prepare, but hed been ready for months. If you are not prepared, you have no chance,” he says. Because of some of the stuff I did, I was really comfortable.”• STAPLES The case for Alabama to win the College Football PlayoffIn the end, everything fit. When he and Amy discussed Luke exploring coaching jobs six years ago, she mentioned Cincinnati as a preferred destination because its close to both their families in Columbus and has a strong Catholic community. To stay in the state and be around people you know,” Fickell said, you couldnt have written a better script.”Fickell learned on the job from two national championship-winning coaches in Urban Meyer and Tressel. They have both experienced extreme success with extremely different styles.When asked about his polar opposite mentors, Fickell immediately brings up an intriguing name—Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio. Fickell worked withDantonio at Ohio State for two years in the early 2000s. Hes seen Dantonios style become a medley of two of his mentors, Nick Saban andTressel.Christian McCaffrey wont play in the Sun Bowl, and college football will be just fineFickell hopes to combine the strengths of Tressel and Meyer with his own twist, much like Dantonio did at Cincinnati and Michigan State. He pinpointed Tressels people skills and consistency as traits hed like to emulate, noting Tressels penchant for remembering names, connecting with people and being compassionate. Fickell brought up Meyers aggressive leadership,” which focuses on taking staff and players out of their comfort zones to force them to grow Michael Cintron Jersey. He paused for a second and then said, The ability to combine those things would be crazy.”Those who know Fickell best say his defining trait as an assistant coach is the strength of his relationships with the players. The depth of those relationships hasnt gone unnoticed. Hes going to be one hell of a dude,” said Ted Ginn Sr., the legendary coach at Glenville High School in Cleveland. Hes going to be a good asset to Cincinnati because I know what he stands for. I know that hes strictly for the kids.”Bob Stoopss true standards come into light with Joe Mixon videoFickells only other shot at being a head coach came in 2011 after Tressels departure in the messy aftermath of an NCAA investigation. Ohio State went 67 and Fickell recalls a mostly joyless experience https://www.scarletknightscollegeshop.com/114-Knights_Zane_Campbell_Jersey, as he said he didnt even have a press conference for nearly two weeks after becoming head coach. Fickell said he enjoyed the players and competition, but never felt the sense of achievement or accomplishment of becoming a head coach because of all the dark clouds hovering from the scandal. At Cincinnati earlier this month, he got to experience all those things. And along the way, theres been an outpouring of good feeling from all those whove crossed his path over the decades at Ohio State. If you call anyone who ever played for him, theyll start by telling you hes a good human being, hes a father figure guy,” Smith said. His impact on our program, I dont know if you can articulate it.”For the next week or two, Fickells attention will be split. But Fickell has made it clear that his vision and purpose are clear, as soon hell be attacking the Cincinnati job like an opponent in a singlet. Until then, forgive him if he doesnt text you back.