The first person to touch the football in the 2016 season for the Ohio State Buckeyes had never touched a football in a game before that moment.
Tyler Durbin, a senior from Burke, Va., played two seasons of soccer at James Madison University. He arrived on Ohio State’s campus on Jan. 12, 2015, the day the Buckeyes won the national championship and started working out with the team a week later as a walk-on kicker.
Durbin’s improbable journey took an unlikely twist when Sean Nuernberger, the returning starter, suffered an injury in preseason camp, giving Durbin the chance to start the season opener Saturday against Bowling Green.
“It’s been incredible experience, just to be out there on the field kicking and to hear the crowd roar,” Durbin said. “It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.”
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Durbin earned his scholarship in his first start. He made all 11 of his extra-point attempts and kicked off 12 times with six touchbacks. He even made his first career tackle. He did all that in front of a crowd of 107,193. He said the biggest crowd at his college soccer games was 3,000.
“It’s crazy to me,” Durbin said. “None of this would have happened if God hadn’t put this opportunity in front of me. I’m really grateful for the opportunity I’ve gotten here. It’s been the best experience of my life.”
Durbin didn’t play football in high school because the games conflicted with his soccer schedule. He sometimes kicked footballs with his brother for fun and always wanted to give it a shot.
Durbin enrolled at James Madison without knowing what to study. He chose civil engineering, but James Madison only had a general engineering major. So after two years, he started looking for a new college with a civil engineering major and also started working with a kicking coach named Paul Woodside, of BeforeUKick.com.
With the help of his dad, Durbin put a tape together of himself kicking field goals and taking kickoffs. He sent tapes to Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Virginia and Georgia Tech.
“As far as the reason why I wanted to come to Ohio State,” Durbin said, “my girlfriend, who is now my wife, both her parents went to Ohio State. They’re all huge Ohio State fans. I decided to give it a shot. That’s how I got here.”
Durbin’s wife Kristin grew up all over the place, Durbin said, but spent time in Dayton because her parents moved there and retired there.
Durbin got married July 23. He said he’s one of two married Buckeyes. Kyle Trout, a redshirt sophomore offensive lineman, is the other.
Durbin’s marital status alone should be enough reason for Urban Meyer to know his name, but Meyer has joked more than once he doesn’t know his kicker’s name.
This was an exchange from Meyer’s press conference Monday.
“Tyler Durbin, your kicker, where did he come from?” a reporter asked.
“I have no idea,” Meyer said with a laugh.
“You know where he came from, but this is a little bit …”
“I don’t know him.”
“The guy never played football until he shows up here.”
“He made a great tackle Saturday,” Meyer said. “He had two actually he would have made because they tried to get a field return. I don’t know where the hell he came from. He’s really good.”
Durbin didn’t have a one-on-one conversation with Meyer in his first year with the team. It wasn’t until preseason camp in August that Meyer officially introduced himself.
“He knows my name,” Durbin said. “He knows my last name at least.”