The life of a walk-on in major college athletics is often a story of perseverance and overcoming adversity. Eric Hanna, an American history teacher at Shanahan Middle School, is no exception, and he has detailed his particular story in a recently published book titled “Fight to the End.”
Hanna walked on to The Ohio State University men’s basketball team for two seasons in the 1990s, playing for then-coach Randy Ayers and eventually Jim O’Brien during O’Brien’s first season in Columbus.
While he was never a star and was even cut from the team his junior year, Hanna continued to persevere, partly because he refers to himself as a basketball addict, but also because he said the feeling of being part of something was addicting in its own right.
“The thing that I think is missed by people is the love for the game, love of playing for a team, and a love for being a part of something that is bigger than yourself,” Hanna said. “Whether it’s Ohio State or the smallest of small Division III schools, if you love basketball, or just love being a part of something, that’s something you just can’t capture a lot of other places in life.”
Hanna said that while he certainly missed the bright lights of Big Ten basketball during the year he was cut from the team, it was being away from the game itself and his teammates that was the toughest to overcome.
Hanna’s determination paid off during his last season in the program as he was awarded a scholarship by O’Brien for his final academic quarter. He also found himself getting minutes during games, playing 10 minutes in the Buckeyes’ lone Big Ten win of the 1997-98 season.
Three days later, Hanna cracked the starting lineup for the first time at any level of his basketball career, taking the floor as part of the starting five against Penn State in what was, at the time, the final game ever to be played in historic St. John Arena.
That Hanna’s fondest memories of his time in the program came toward the end, after many bumps in the road along the way, is fitting for the foundation of his book and what he hopes people can learn by reading it.
“Ultimately, the main idea of the book is to find something that you love, not give up, and not quit until you’ve given it everything that you possibly have,” Hanna said.
Hanna admits that during his time as a walk-on simply looking for his shot, he had natural selfish moments of thought, asking himself why he wasn’t playing more or why certain decisions were made. He said those thoughts and the time spent thinking them only hurt him and did nothing to make him better.
Today, as a teacher, Hanna’s passion is to inspire young minds, and he hopes that sharing those moments and the lessons he didn’t learn until college can help kids at a much younger age.
“One of the main reasons why I wrote the book is I want to share that story of inspiration with kids so that, just maybe, some of the lessons I got at 22 years old will click for them at 11, 12, 13 years old,” he said.
He went on to say of the book, “It’s a feel-good, inspirational story. Who doesn’t love to pick up a book that has that sort of vibe? I hope that I am able to give people that read it that type of feeling as well. That’s what I’m hoping to get out of writing it.”
Asked how playing in front of large crowds in the sport he loves compares to seeing his book published for the first time, Hanna paused for thought before saying that for now, playing in a raucous St. John Arena is hard to top. However, he went on to say he believed that feeling would be rivaled by seeing people inspired by his book.
With the book just being published, Hanna said he is still working with the publishing company to get the book into stores. For now, it can be found on Amazon by searching the book title, as well as by visiting the book’s website, www.fighttotheend.com.
He will be signing copies at Hometown Huddle in Plain City on May 4 from 12-2 p.m.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.