COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Urban Meyer and the national champion Ohio State football team returned home to a rousing welcome on Tuesday.
About 75 fans greeted the Buckeyes when they arrived at a Columbus airport, fresh off a 42-20 victory over Oregon at the inaugural championship game of the College Football Playoff on Monday night in Dallas.
Meyer, the second coach to win national titles at two schools, walked over to the crowd inside the airport, shook hands and signed a few autographs. His players, including championship-game MVP Ezekiel Elliott, followed with high-fives for the fans.
The players outside, some wearing the championship hats handed out at the game, slapped hands with fans who were bundled up in scarlet and gray hats and coats in 20-degree weather at Rickenbacker International Airport.
Tracy Stasiulewicz, of Ashville, was in tears at the airport, just like she was at the end of Monday night’s game.
“We know their names. We’ve seen them play the whole time,” she said. “To me, it’s very emotional.”
The Buckeyes, who defied naysayers to claim the national title after losing two starting quarterbacks to injuries, earned the final spot in the playoff. They upset Alabama and Oregon behind quarterback Cardale Jones, who was the Buckeyes’ third-stringer when fall camp opened.
“You’ll never see anything like that again,” said Ron Chapman, a longtime Buckeyes fan from Pataskala.
“It’s a great story to tell children about how to overcome adversity,” added his wife, Judy.
Some of the players signed a few autographs at the airport before boarding buses for a short ride back to campus, where about 100 people were waiting to meet the team.
Plans for a formal celebration to honor the champions are still in the works, the university said Tuesday. The coaches and players didn’t make any remarks after returning to Columbus.
Young children perched on their parents shoulders for a better view as the buses pulled into the fenced parking lot at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Cheers rose from the crowd as players went over to the fans, some of whom had waited outside for an hour.
“I have goose bumps, and it’s not from the cold,” said Kim McMillen, of Cambridge, who was driving around campus in search of Ohio State shirts when she spotted the crowd.
Terry Hickman of Beallsville, drove more than 2 hours to see the team. He’s been a volunteer usher at Ohio Stadium for two decades and admitted his faith began to waver this year when the Buckeyes struggled early in the season.
“They’ve overcome a lot of adversity and injuries,” he said. “They bought into the program.”