Tradition unlike any other


Orange grad dots ‘i’ in ‘Script Ohio’

By Dillon Davis - [email protected]



Olentangy Orange graduate and current Ohio State University student Dylan Penka dots the “i” in “Script Ohio” prior to kick off of Saturday’s game in Ohio Stadium between Ohio State and Rutgers.

Olentangy Orange graduate and current Ohio State University student Dylan Penka dots the “i” in “Script Ohio” prior to kick off of Saturday’s game in Ohio Stadium between Ohio State and Rutgers.


Courtesy photo | The Ohio State University Marching Band

For so many children growing up in the state of Ohio, dotting the “i” in “Script Ohio” is a dream. This past weekend, the honor became a dream fulfilled for Olentangy Orange High School alum and fifth-year Ohio State University senior Dylan Penka.

Penka high-stepped his way to the top of the “i” prior to Ohio State’s game against Rutgers on Saturday before bowing to the 104,245 people in attendance inside Ohio Stadium.

As he capped off, arguably, the most memorable tradition in college marching band history, Penka received a thunderous roar of approval from the Buckeye faithful before playing his solo performance of the “Buckeye Battle Cry.”

“I remember when I got to the top of the “i” and did the bow, I just couldn’t stop myself from smiling,” Penka told The Gazette of the moment. “I still remember when I did that bow, you hear even more of a cheer rising up, and then you turn around and do another bow. That second bow, you do it a bit slower, and I just remember every second of when I was going down. I was thinking, ‘This is it. This is my time. I’m so ready. This is amazing, and it’s everything I’ve ever hoped for.”

Penka said that by the time he got to the bottom of the “o” in Script Ohio, he was trying to savor every aspect of the fleeting moment that had been years in the making. “It felt like all those five years (in the band) were compressed down into that one moment,” he said.

There are a total of 28 sousaphone players in the Ohio State University Marching Band (OSUMB)’s KL Row, as its known, but just nine fourth or fifth-year sousaphonists will have had the honor of dotting the “i” this year. Which sousaphone player will have the honor in each game is decided in the spring or summer, and those in line to dot “Script Ohio” are ranked to give an order to the game selection.

Penka said he was ranked in the middle of the group, and when it was his selection, he wanted to choose a Big Ten game. His grandfather is also from New Jersey, where Rutgers University is located, which also led him to choose that game. Unbeknownst to him at the time, the game would also be designated as the school’s homecoming game, which only added to the specialness of his moment.

Because he was the i-dotter, Saturday also marked the first time Penka had ever gone all the way through “Script Ohio.” Normally, the marching aspect of his “Script Ohio” performance is finished early, but Saturday afforded him the opportunity to see the entirety of what makes the tradition so iconic.

“It’s kind of surreal,” he said of making his way through all of “Script Ohio.” “It’s a very special moment, especially given that I usually spend most of ‘Script Ohio’ just unwinding from the block and doing a couple of turns. But when you’re going through it and seeing the whole thing, you’re able to see the sideline and see all the people standing there with their cameras. It’s an awesome experience.

“It really builds up that anticipation, especially when you get to the bottom of the ‘o’ because when you get there, that’s when the crowd really starts cheering because they know the ‘i’ dot is coming up. You feel that adrenaline coursing through you. You fist bump your friend at the top of the ‘o’ and then you take off. That’s just an amazing moment.”

Penka said he can’t put a number on the times he’s practiced high-stepping out to dot the “i” dating back to when he was still in high school. Because of the countless rehearsals, actually doing it on Saturday was second nature to him, he said.

Penka’s road to receiving the prestigious honor began years ago when he was just in third grade. At the time, he played the piano before transitioning into the orchestra. But many of his friends also played in the marching band, and as the lone member of the group to not be in the marching band, Penka figured he’d give it a shot.

When it came time to pick an instrument, the tuba was the only instrument no one in his group of friends played. Naturally, Penka chose to play the tuba, and after doing so, realized what it could mean down the road.

“I’ve always known about dotting the ‘i’ in the back of my head, but that’s when I realized that, wow, I chose this instrument and that could be something I do in the future,” he said.

As a freshman at Orange, Penka and his bandmates had the honor of performing at OSUMB’s Skull Session, a beloved game day tradition at Ohio State. It was then he knew being a member of the OSUMB and one day dotting the “i” was among his primary goals.

Nearly a decade later, he was standing before his friends and family inside St. John Arena on Saturday as they cheered him on in anticipation of his big moment. Penka said seeing his loved ones at Skull Session was almost as special as dotting the “i” inside the stadium.

“When I came into Skull Session, I looked up and I heard people chanting my name and wearing my t-shirts,” he said. “I saw all of my friends and family up there, and during Skull Session when we did the i-dotting practice, I remember seeing all of them there, and I was like, ‘Yep, those are the people who got me here. I’m so excited, and I can’t wait to do this for them.’ Honestly, it’s almost as special as doing it inside Ohio Stadium.”

Although he has marched in both the Rose and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parades, as well as performed at countless high-profile football games, Penka said dotting the “i” is the crowning achievement of all the work he’s dedicated to being a member of OSUMB, and a moment that even exceeded his own expectations.

“I’m always a bit of a cautious person,” he said. “I try to approach things by being realistic about it. But honestly, being at the top of the ‘o,’ going to the ‘i,’ it exceeded anything I thought it could be. I remember the amount of emotion I was feeling once I got to the top of the ‘i.’ I never could have anticipated how exciting and how emotional that was.”

He added, “It’s the culmination of a very long and a very hard journey. But nothing worth doing is easy, and being in TBDBITL (The Best Damn Band in the Land) and getting to the top of the ‘i’ has been a very hard but worthwhile journey.”

Olentangy Orange graduate and current Ohio State University student Dylan Penka dots the “i” in “Script Ohio” prior to kick off of Saturday’s game in Ohio Stadium between Ohio State and Rutgers.
https://www.delgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/40/2022/10/web1_05_Rutgers_initialedits-22-2.jpgOlentangy Orange graduate and current Ohio State University student Dylan Penka dots the “i” in “Script Ohio” prior to kick off of Saturday’s game in Ohio Stadium between Ohio State and Rutgers. Courtesy photo | The Ohio State University Marching Band
Orange grad dots ‘i’ in ‘Script Ohio’

By Dillon Davis

[email protected]

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.