By Jim Naveau
LEIPSIC – Gavin Cupp’s name was a compromise but his college choice was his first choice all along.
Cupp, a 6-foot, 5-inch, 295-pound offensive lineman from Leipsic High School put his name on a national letter of intent to play football at Ohio State on Wednesday morning as part of the Buckeyes’ 25-player recruiting class.
After he signed a copy of the official document, he pulled on an Ohio State cap. On a chair behind the table where he sat in his school’s media center was a Brutus Buckeye head that was part of his Halloween costume when he was in the fifth grade.
He has a picture of himself with former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel when Cupp attended OSU’s football camp for the first time that shows him, as a fifth grader, standing as tall as Tressel.
The name he put on that letter of intent was Gavin Cupp or Gavin Hayes Cupp, in honor of former Ohio State coach Woody Hayes if he wanted to use his full name.
But if his dad, Keith Cupp, a 6-foot, 7-inch, 300-pound former NAIA All-American at the University of Findlay, had gotten his way he might have gone even further in honoring the former OSU coach and signed as Woody Cupp.
“He tried. He really liked Woody Hayes. Go ask my mom. He tried to name me Woody Hayes Cupp and my mom said, ‘I’ll do Hayes,’ ” Gavin Cupp said.
When his mom, Gwen Cupp, was asked if this was for real, she said, “Oh, yes. That was my compromise to make his middle name Hayes
“We had Woody, Butkus and Knute. Those were his suggested names for Gavin when I was pregnant. I said, ‘We can’t name him Woody. He will get beat up on the playground’ and Keith said, ‘He won’t get beat up.’ ”
Cupp’s recruiting saga played out on national scale when Michigan State, where he first committed, withdrew his scholarship after he participated in Ohio State’s Friday Night Lights recruiting program in July.
The first-team All-Ohio player had offers from around 20 other schools but did not have one from OSU when MSU coach Mark Dantonio pulled his offer.
A few days later Ohio State did extend an offer and around a week later, Cupp committed to the Buckeyes.
OSU coach Urban Meyer said on Wednesday that Cupp won over the Buckeyes coaches the same way the other recruits did.
“He wanted to be a Buckeye. We didn’t give it to him because we felt sorry for him. He earned it,” Meyer said.
Cupp said finally signing was exciting and a relief.
“If anybody knows what a verbal offer actually is it’s me. I’m just glad to get it on pen and paper and it’s official now,” he said.
“It’s great. Every signing day I was sitting on the couch, thinking how cool it would be to be in a position to sign with a major Division I program. Now that I’m here it’s a pretty good feeling. It’s pretty cool.”
Cupp committed to Michigan State in May. He wanted to play in the Big Ten and the Spartans coaches were pressing him to commit, so he did.
Keith Cupp said they knew working out at Friday Night Lights could annoy Michigan State’s coaches. “And we found out how much,” he said.
For a few days last summer, things were a little tough. But Wednesday, Gavin Cupp could say “It’s all good.”
He thinks the next four or five years at Ohio State will be good, too.
“I’ve just been working, working on my craft, working in the weight room. Now I get to get a weight program from Coach Marotti (OSU strength coach Mickey Marotti). I can’t wait for that,” he said.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.