Neither of the Montgomery County natives who figure to be starters for the Ohio State football team this fall were directly impacted by the shooting in the Oregon District early Sunday morning — but Robert Landers and Josh Myers both know someone who was too close for comfort.
In Landers’ case, it was younger brother Trey, a senior-to-be on the University of Dayton basketball team.
The Landers brothers, who lost their father to gun violence when they were very young, are close, and Robert went to bed Saturday night knowing Trey had plans to be downtown.
“I always tell him let me know when you get home,” said the elder Landers, who had silenced his phone because he needed a good night’s sleep after another long day of preseason practice. “Even though I'll be sleepin’, let me know when you get home. Just shoot me a text, let me know when you get home. And I woke up with text messages, phone calls, Twitter feed, Facebook, every bit of social media (alerts), and I was like, Oh, what is going on?”
The fifth-year senior defensive tackle was able to get ahold of his brother and confirm he was fine.
“He was the first person I called and we talked a little bit, and it was surreal because it’s like one of those things where, you know, for me like you see it on TV, hear about it, things like that, or you might see sometimes like in documentary movies because I'm a big documentary person, but when it's personally in your face, and it's like, ‘Oh this can hit home,’ it's a little different.”
» LOOKING BACK: Landers leading on and off the field for Buckeyes
Myers, whose girlfriend attends UD and recently began living near the Oregon District, said the tragedy left him speechless.
“Obviously it’s a terrible, terrible situation you pray never happens,” said Myers, a third-year sophomore from Miamisburg. “It doesn’t feel as real until it hits home and then it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, this stuff is really happening.’
“It’s scary. My girlfriend goes to school there and the house she just moved into is less than half a mile away from where it happened so it hit home big time. I just am praying for the city of Dayton, praying for the people and the families who were directly involved with it. I’m almost at a loss for words, honestly, with the situation. I just pray that they stay strong.”
Pre-scheduled interviews Thursday were the first time either spoke with the local media since the shooting left 10 people dead, including the gunman, but Robert Landers released a video on social media expressing condolences to the victims and their families earlier in the week.
>>RELATED: See Landers’ message
“I know a lot of people are going to mentally struggle, whether they lost somebody, whether they were mentally injured,” said Landers, who has been public about his dealing with mental issues in the past. “It’s one of those things that could cause PTSD to anybody who was just down there but did not suffer any injury.
“It’s one of those things where it can affect somebody on many different levels, and I felt that it was a good moment for me to not only reach out to the people in my community, but people in other communities who have also suffered from similar issues over the past couple months, even this year alone. And so it was a good time to kind of use my platform to speak out about it and express how I felt and then pay my condolences to those people.”
Ohio State coach Ryan Day also expressed sympathy for victims of the Dayton shooting as well as one in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday, and Landers said he appreciates his new head coach’s perspective on such mental health issues.
“It means a lot because it just shows me how much he cares,” Landers said. “He could have just made it simple as, 'You OK? You want to talk to anybody?' But he actually is concerned. And that's one thing with coach Day, he is a player's coach. He cares about our wellbeing and cares about our day-to-day mental state as well as our physical state — so I appreciate him.”
Of course, Landers being Landers, he could not let the mood stay somber for too long.
He wrapped up that part of the interview by looking straight into one reporter’s camera and hamming it up a little bit.
“If you're watching this coach Day, I love you!”
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