Eli Apple made a name for himself in Voorhees as a standout for the Eastern High School football team. Now his name will be forever etched in Ohio State Buckeye history as a national champion.
In the national championship game on Monday, Jan. 12, Oregon was trailing by 22 points with time running out in regulation. Quarterback Marcus Mariota, desperate to score, unleashed a pass. Apple was waiting for the interception.
“In that spot, you know quarterbacks start airing it out and he just threw one up for grabs and I was there,” said Apple, a redshirt freshman at Ohio State who graduated from Eastern in 2013.
The interception sealed Ohio State’s 42–20 upset of Oregon in the national championship, a resounding victory that gave the Buckeyes a title to bring home to Columbus.
“It’s one of the best weeks of my life,” Apple said. “Being a national champion, being able to celebrate with the best guys I’ve ever been around from a football standpoint. It’s been amazing.”
The team returned to the university on Tuesday the 13th with a raucous crowd welcoming it at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
“It was incredible. Rolling into the Woody Hayes Center, people were outside waving and yelling and screaming,” Apple said.
That reception continued at classes the next day as Apple’s interactions with other students were filled with messages of congratulations and excitement. That atmosphere is one of Apple’s favorite parts of playing at Ohio State.
“It’s crazy playing on the big stage with 108,000 fans at a home game or going on the road to Penn State. It’s a lot different than playing Cherokee or Washington Township, but for me it’s still football, no matter where you play,” Apple said.
There is one thing Apple does regret from his national championship experience.
Not keeping the ball he intercepted.
“I just handed it to the ref. I wanted to celebrate with my teammates but if I did it again I would keep it,” Apple said.