Jared Dorsa goes grocery shopping at 6 a.m. to ensure he doesn’t have to deal with a large crowd at the store. It’s not that he doesn’t like big crowds. Dorsa wants to minimize his risk of contracting COVID-19.
The redshirt senior has made adjustments to his daily life this season to keep himself healthy. Whatever changes Dorsa makes are to ensure his teammates take the field for Ohio’s season opener at Central Michigan.
“You can only do so much,” Dorsa said. “It's just doing the little things that you don't usually have to think about and changing your routines and how the little things that you're doing are going to affect everybody and our chances at a season.”
The Kings Mills native has also forgone his usual plans to go home on weekends in order to limit unnecessary exposure. Dorsa is never sure who all his parents have been in contact with, so he doesn’t want to take the risk.
Dorsa isn’t alone. The Bobcats are all changing their routines to keep their hopes of a season alive. While the players care about their own health, they know they have a strong chance of beating COVID-19. The precautions they take are to protect their coaches, specifically Frank Solich.
Solich turned 76 in September and is the oldest active coach in college football. He’s also the winningest coach in Ohio history, so the Bobcats cannot afford to put his health at risk right before the season begins.
“You can't just think about yourself and be like, ‘Oh, if I get the disease, give me two days, and I'll be good,’” Dorsa said. “It's a selfish way to think about it because of the coaches. If we were to be selfish and do something and put them at risk, the consequences could be much more severe than just no games.”
After being elected team captain this season, Dorsa and fellow captain Cam Odom have taken it upon themselves to ensure the Bobcats are following procedures and staying safe. If Ohio is going to have a season, everyone has to endure it together.
Dorsa and Odom have estimated a 12-week stretch between the MAC announcing the return of fall football and the Mid-American Conference championship in Detroit on Dec. 18. If the Bobcats can endure 12 weeks of self-containment, it will all pay off.
Odom thinks the message is getting through.
“The things that we've been doing right is allowing us to have these whole two weeks of practice that we've been having,” Odom said. “So our goal is just to keep focusing on doing the right things outside of practice so that we can continue.”
Of course, not every player is going to risk contracting COVID-19 to play football. When speaking to the media for the first time this season, Solich noted a handful of players had elected not to play this season. There weren't many players, but it was enough to mention. The most notable opt-out was senior cornerback Marlin Brooks.
Neither Solich nor the other players harbor any bad feelings toward those who chose not to play. They can’t blame a player for putting the health of themselves or others first.
“If they're concerned about their health, we're all for them,” Solich said. “If it's a situation where they don't feel like it's good to be in Athens or it's good to be on this football team, that's a decision for them.”
Solich has done the best he can to keep himself and his players at minimal risk for infection. Most team meetings this season are virtual with the occasional distanced meeting in the auditorium. Even when the pandemic started, Ohio had its players mask up and keep safe distances.
The Bobcats have struggled to adjust to the standards they have to meet. Dorsa still finds it difficult to breathe with both pads and a mask on. He endures it, however. He knows a little discomfort is worth being able to take the field. The linebacker even thinks the pandemic will improve his leadership abilities.
“I feel lucky to be helping this team through something like this for the first time,” Dorsa said. “I was good friends with Evan Croutch, and he was a captain, but I can't go, ‘Hey Evan, how did you deal with the pandemic when you were here?’ It's all very, very unique for this group of seniors to try to lead whatever way we can.”