Saturday will feature more than the renewal of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry for the 115th time.
It will also be a reunion for a pair of Wayne Warriors.
The fourth-ranked Wolverines and the 10th-ranked Buckeyes both feature a defensive starter who wore the red and black in their high school days.
Fourth-year junior Robert Landers is a first-year starter in his third season as a regular member of the defensive line rotation for the Buckeyes.
He has 16 tackles, including three for loss this season as he has been in and out of the lineup because of a nagging back injury. Of Landers’ 42 career tackles, 15.5 have been for a loss, and the 6-foot-1, 282-pounder led the Buckeyes in tackles-for-loss per play in 2016 and ’17.
Tyree Kinnel is a 5-foot-11, 201-pound senior in his second season as a starting safety at Michigan.
He has 150 tackles in 45 games for the Maize and Blue, including 8.5 tackles for loss, a sack, two interceptions, 10 pass breakups and one forced fumble.
He is second on the team in tackles this season with 62.
Wayne coach Jay Minton said anybody who has been part of the Warriors program has to be extremely proud to have representatives such as Landers and Kinnel, who both suited up for the state runners-up Warriors squad in 2014. (Landers returned a fumble for a touchdown in Wayne’s 31-21 loss to Lakewood St. Edward.)
“Tyree is a captain and my wish was for ‘BB’ (Landers) to be one at Ohio State this year, then they could have met at midfield for the coin toss,” Minton said. “That would have been really cool.
“When players like these two are in your program, you hope that maybe there is a little something that they may have received during their time here to make a positive difference in their lives. I know these two are great examples of what you always want in your players and I am not just talking about being as good as they both are, but all of the other intangibles, like how to treat people and how to play with class, how to compete and above all, how to be a great leader.”
They got to their respective schools in separate ways.
A lifelong Michigan fan, Kinnel was an early commit in Michigan’s class of 2015. The four-star recruit was rated the No. 8 player in the state of Ohio according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.
“I kind of liked the feeling of being that outside guy in Ohio with everyone being Ohio State fans,” Kinnel said during Big Ten Media Days in July. ”I was that odd guy. I kind of like that feeling. That’s just how I grew to love Michigan. I’m just blessed and glad I was able to attend the University of Michigan.”
Landers was a three-star prospect ranked No. 26 in the state. He initially committed to West Virginia but changed his mind after getting a December offer from the Buckeyes.
Ohio State offered Landers after opposing high school coaches raved about his play during the Warriors’ run to the state championship game.
“I’ve always been a Buckeye,” he said last year when asked to relive his decision-making process. “This was always my dream school. I was blessed to get from West Virginia an opportunity I had been dreaming about, a full-ride to any university so my mother wouldn’t have to pay for school, but once Ohio State came along, it was just a matter of I knew where I wanted to go.
“But it was difficult for me because my mom always preached to me you don’t own much but your name, and I had given West Virginia my word. It was difficult to pull that back, but I knew I had to go where it would end up being best for me.”
While Landers is aiming for a fourth win against the Wolverines, Kinnel is still looking for his first win in the rivalry.
He’s also hoping to avoid being part of the eighth Wolverines class to go 0-4 against Ohio State.
“Obviously on Saturday, one will be extremely happy and excited and the other will be upset and down,” Minton said. “But no matter how it goes, our hearts here at Wayne High School will be with both of them to play the best they can play and make some life long memories that they can come home to tell us about.”
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