COLUMBUS — His name will be called early in the NFL draft in April. The money will be good.
So, why is senior linebacker Bobby Carpenter talking about coming back from a broken fibula he suffered in Ohio State’s 25-21 win over Michigan on Nov. 19?
Why isn’t he just sitting back and waiting for the NFL instead of wishing, hoping and trying to rehab his way onto the field when OSU plays Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2?
“That’s Bobby Carpenter. You never know what he’s going to do,” cornerback Ashton Youboty said, with a smile.
The 6-foo-3, 255-pound Carpenter split time between linebacker and defensive end this season. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.52 seconds for NFL scouts last spring and was Ohio State’s leading pass rusher with eight quarterback sacks.
There is no need to pad his resume with one final game. He just wants to play one more game.
Team doctors won’t give a final verdict on his status for the Fiesta Bowl until this week. Reportedly, the most optimistic medical estimate is that he has a 50 percent chance of playing.
“There is a chance, probably a pretty decent chance they’re going to tell me I can’t go,” Carpenter said. “If that happens, I’ll provide as much support as I can, like against Michigan. I’ll be the biggest fan, the biggest coach, the biggest supporter I can.”
Carpenter’s teammates are impressed with his determination to play. Quarterback Troy Smith called him “emotionally the backbone of the team.”
Wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez said, “It’s clearly an unselfish act on his part. He’s got a financial interest in not playing in this game. He wants to play for Ohio State one more time. That’s pretty impressive if you think about how much money is on the table for the kid.”
Carpenter said his parents are trying to look after his future best interests. “They don’t want me to do anything to jeopardize my body and my ability to play further on. But in the same sense they would never tell me not to play. They know I’m a grown man and have to make my own decision.
“As far as my teammates, they want me to play but every one of them has told me, ‘Don’t go out there and do something foolish,’ ” he said.
Maybe some of Carpenter’s determination, as well as the cautionary warnings, come from his dad, Rob, a former NFL running back.
“You hear a lot of stories about your dad. And what I always hear is, ‘Your dad was one of the toughest players around.’ There is a clip of him when he was playing for Houston and they were trying to run out the clock. Dad never wanted to lie on the field and it shows him trying to crawl off the field with one leg and two arms just to get off so they wouldn’t have to call a timeout,” Carpenter said.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said it will be a late decision if Carpenter plays. “Bobby is really up in the air,” he said.