By Joe Scalzo
Corey Linsley believes grow ing up in Youngstown made him tough enough to survive, and thrive, at Ohio State.
But he didn’t just learn physical toughness.
“It taught me a lot about mental toughness and the big role that plays,” said Linsley, a Boardman High graduate. “You see some guys here [at OSU] that can’t mentally make it. It’s too hard for them.
“I wouldn’t call my childhood rough, but the attitude and culture of Youngstown makes you a tough guy and a tough person in general. Everyone battles through some sort of hardship. I think that’s what I learned the most from.”
Linsley, a first team All-Big Ten Conference center for the Buckeyes, started the final 25 games of his Ohio State career and is now preparing for the next stage of his football career. He’s already received an invitation to next month’s NFL combine and is considered one of the draft’s top center prospects.
“It’s a major opportunity,” he said. “Every kid that plays football dreams about playing in the NFL. I’m excited but I know I’ve got to work hard and keep getting better at my craft.”
Linsley was a two-way standout at Boardman who also excelled at track, winning a Division I state indoor title in the shot put and finishing second at the outdoor meet to go along with a state title in the discus.
He had an up-and-down start to his OSU career, playing as a reserve lineman in his first two seasons while getting suspended for the first two games in 2011 for violating team rules.
After briefly considering giving up football for track following the 2011 season, Linsley made some life changes and impressed the new coaching staff enough to earn the starting center spot after All-American Michael Brewster graduated.
He started every game in 2012, then battled through a foot injury that required surgery last spring. He was named one of eight team captains in August and despite being limited in the first two games, he finished with the best season of his career.
“I improved a lot in my pass pro [protection] knowledge,” Linsley said. “I’ve always been a pretty good run blocker. I’ve always had the strength for that. But my pass protection was weak. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot more athletic and the combine is a great place to show that.
“I’m comfortable with my knowledge of the game, which comes with playing the center position, and I feel like I have all the physical attributes you need to have to compete at the next level.”
The only negative this season was in how it ended, with losses to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game and Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
“It was difficult getting over it,” he said. “I take solace in knowing we gave it our all. I know it’s going to fuel the young guys but the seniors have to keep moving. We’ve prepared ourselves for life after college football.”
Linsley was invited to play in Saturday’s NFLPA Colleigate Bowl but opted to rest his body instead.
“Nothing serious,” he said. “Really, I’m just sore, which comes with playing for 20 straight weeks.”
He’s hoping to have impressive showings at the combine and Ohio State’s pro day so he can follow in the footsteps of recent Ohio State centers like Nick Mangold (who plays for the Jets), Jim Cordle (Giants) and Brewster (Jaguars).
He would also be the third Spartan in the NFL, joining Browns guard John Greco and Broncos center Steve Vallos.
“I definitely look up to them,” Linsley said of Greco and Vallos. “To have two guys from Boardman, who did the same stuff I did, make it to the NFL really gives me some confidence going into the whole process.”