By Jim Naveau
LEIPSIC – You might say turning potential into growth has been a lifelong pursuit for Gavin Cupp.
He’s a big guy now and a big-time college football recruit verbally committed to sign to play football for Ohio State in February.
But it was a very different story when he first arrived. At five pounds, he was smaller than around 90 percent of the babies born in the United States.
“I was only five pounds coming out. I was early. Two hundred, eighty-five pounds later, here I am,” the 6-foot, 6-inch , 290-pound Cupp said, with a laugh earlier this season.
Cupp and his Leipsic teammates will be in pursuit of the Vikings’ seventh consecutive trip to the playoffs when they play Hopewell Loudon on Friday night. That streak goes back to when Leipsic’s seniors were sixth graders.
Cupp’s overall athletic ability – second-team All-Ohio in football and all-league mention in basketball and baseball – had recruiters from major colleges in pursuit of him since early in his high school career.
That ability and his determination to prove himself made him one of the most talked about 3-star football recruits in the country for a few days last summer.
After getting offers from Michigan State, Minnesota, Missouri, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Illinois and others, Cupp made a verbal commitment to MSU in May.
Michigan State had one remaining spot for an offensive lineman in its 2016 recruiting class and Cupp felt if he wanted to go with the Spartans he had to take it. He called Michigan State his favorite school he had visited and talked about the “family atmosphere” in MSU’s program.
But two months later there was a rift in the family. After he attended Ohio State’s “Friday Night Lights” recruiting night at Ohio Stadium and worked out, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio withdrew his offer to Cupp.
Cupp said he tried to call Michigan State to let the Spartans’ coaches know he was going to Friday Night Lights, but was unable to get through to them.
He had attended other Ohio State camps and was told by the Buckeyes’ coaches that he needed to get stronger.
“I didn’t start working fully in the weight room until this year,” Cupp said. “I’d work in the spring and summer when I’d get the chance, but I was a three-sport athlete until this year. I stopped playing baseball this year so once basketball ended I got in the weight room and it jumped tremendously.”
He wanted to see how his newly honed strength, footwork and speed compared to athletes at the highest level. That’s why he went to Friday Night Lights, Cupp said.
“I went to compete and work on my craft. It is what it is. There’s a plan. I guess this is what the plan was supposed to be. I’m glad it worked out the way it did,” he said.
How it worked out was that Ohio State offered him a scholarship a few days after Michigan State dropped him.
Cupp thinks his future will be at offensive guard at OSU. “I think they want me playing guard. I’m athletic enough to play center and I can play tackle. But in the end it’s wherever I can fit, wherever they want to plug me in,” he said.
Leipsic coach Andy Mangas said Cupp will continue to grow athletically when he gets to Ohio State.
“You have to be strong. At some point you have to commit yourself and he did. He has made huge strides in the weight room and made it a focal point. Once he gets in Ohio State’s program it’s going to take him exponentially to the next level,” Mangas said.
Reach Jim Naveau at (567) 242-0414 or follow him on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.