A.J. Ouellette’s story has been told before, but it’s certainly worth repeating.
How many guys go from Division VII high school standout to Division I college walk-on to starter in the span of 12 months?
That’s what the former Covington Buccaneer did three years ago at Ohio University.
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He went on the lead the Bobcats in rushing in 2014 and ’15, but last season he suffered a foot injury in the first game of the season and didn’t play again in 2016.
Back at 100 percent, Ouellette was named a captain for Ohio on Friday.
He talked to his hometown newspaper Wednesday during MAC football media days.
“I’m stronger than last year and my speed stayed exactly the same, so health-wise I’m 100 percent heading into the season,” Ouellette said.
As for how he got to Athens in the first place, well, the former Buccaneer credited hard work and some luck.
He pushed himself throughout his high school career, and through a connection with his trainers at Enhance U Sports Performance Academy had a chance to visit Akron. When that fell through, Ouellette visited Ohio instead.
That led to an invitation to training camp, where he stood out in an early scrimmage and earned a spot on special teams.
“I showed up week one at Kent, had a great play one on kickoff, a de-cleater, so the coaches were pumped up about that, and having that as your first play in college football was a big boost,” he said. “Then the luck side was four or five fumbles (by other OU running backs), and being the fifth stringer, they just throw you in there the last second and you just keep going.”
Ouellette kept going for 785 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman in 2015 and added 691 yards on the ground as a sophomore.
He was first named a captain last year and certainly has the respect of head coach Frank Solich, who knows something about walk-ons having come from Nebraska, where the Cornhuskers were famous for them.
“We kept watching him on film and he kept running over people and around people, but the caliber of competition sometimes is in question a little bit so you try to put that into the system,” Solich said. “We knew we wanted him in our program, so we were able to get him to walk on and really before we got out of fall camp he had already earned a scholarship. He proved everybody wrong – us and everybody who didn’t recruit him as a scholarship player.
“He’s been really special since. I don’t think people really know what he’s all about in terms of internally. He is special, not only his desire to be a great football player, but his leadership ability on our football team is amazing. He’s got the respect of everybody in our program, so we’ve got ourselves a really good one there.”
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