The matchup between Ohio State's offensive line and Michigan's David Ojabo and Aidan Hutchinson will be key when the Buckeyes and Wolverines play.
Ojabo and Hutchinson lead the Big Ten in sacks with ten each.
One key to OSU's play up front is the performance of Paris Johnson, and that's no surprise to those who have followed the career of the sophomore out of Cincinnati.
Johnson was the No. 7 prospect in the 2020 recruiting class. According to 247Sports, he was the top offensive tackle and No. 1 player out of Ohio.
Now he is part of a crew that has only given up 13 sacks in 11 games this season.
He is also a journalism student and someone whose insatiable curiosity has led to some pretty incredible hobbies.
Learn more about Paris Johnson with this Columbus Dispatch Q&A.
Meet Ohio State football offensive lineman Paris Johnson
You've got a story that a lot of people have heard about. What's something people don't know about you?
I guess, besides the things that most people do know, I'm studying to learn more Mandarin right now. And I'm starting to actually pick up some Portuguese right now. I'm starting to practice some Portuguese.
You learned Mandarin a while ago, because I spoke to you about that when you were a recruit.
So have you ever been able to use Mandarin, or your newfound knowledge of Portuguese in conversation?
A little bit. I would say I used my Chinese a lot on campus when I first got here, like when I first enrolled, before COVID. Because I know Ohio State has a Chinese group on campus, even though I knew where to go, I would ask for directions, or I would ask where I can get some food at on campus. And to see their faces, they would be shaken to see a 6-7 Black male talking to them in Chinese. It kind of caught them off guard. But it was cool, and it was really nice. I made a lot of friends that way, too. It was also a good opportunity for me to learn because it's easier to learn in person than online. Like, I'm learning some Portuguese online and in person from people who know Portuguese. It's just so much easier to have that conversation.
Since you brought it up, what is it like to be a 6-7 Black male in Columbus?
I'm from Cincinnati, but coming to Columbus, I would say it's been overall really good. I wouldn't say I've been faced with any issues. What I do keep in mind being a large Black male anywhere in the country, is that when you're assumed to be an athlete, when you have that logo on your chest, you're going to be treated differently, obviously. But I would say that I've met a lot of genuine people here in Columbus and any place I've been traveling. So it's been really nice. Things have been really good.
Your name is Paris. Your father's name is Paris. Are you guys named after the city?
No, no. Well, it's funny I'm telling you this story, because I just asked my Mom about it the other day for clarification. But she told me — I don't even know if I should be telling this story. OK, I'm just going to tell it. So my dad's mom apparently met some guy named Paris and she thought he was cute. So when she had a son, she named him Paris. Apparently, it's a common name in Chicago, and I guess that's how my dad got his name because there was some other guy named Paris in Chicago that she liked and just liked the name, too.
Which is funny because you're obviously not Paris Johnson III, so this cute guy you're named after was not grandpa.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
You run a charity. Have you been able to balance what you've wanted to do with that with the time constraints you're under as a student athlete?
Yes, I have. And a lot of that is because of the help that my mom has been able to give me. Because of the schedule and the constraints that I have, trying to balance the classroom and the field, she's been a huge help. And I would say the things I have wanted to accomplish during the season? I feel like we definitely have met our goals, and so far, going into Christmas, we have continued our plans as we wanted them.
That includes a Christmas toy drive, correct?
How cool is it that former Buckeye Ryan Miller did your charity's website?
I honestly think that's cool, and that's one of the reasons that I came to Ohio State. I felt the brotherhood here, and I felt the connection from the alumni that come through here. I just feel that's part of being an Ohio kid who goes to Ohio State. Just how accepted me and my mom and our goals and our foundation? You know, we say we need help in trying to do this and that, and there are people coming to us saying, 'I would love to help you.' And oftentimes things aren't like that. So it's honestly been a huge blessing that people have been coming to us telling me that they have the resources to help, and they have the knowledge and they know the people to connect us with, which has been awesome.
Are you a journalism major?
I heard a story about you covering a baseball game. Do you know how to score a baseball game now?
Yeah, so honestly, I played T-ball growing up, and I went to baseball games in person, but I was never fond of watching games on TV. I felt they moved too slow. And I feel like when you play T-ball the rules are kind of different from real baseball.
So I have a mentor, Mike Garafolo, and he suggested to me that I should work a live event. The last opportunity I had to do that was cover a baseball game, and he told me I should do it. And I was like, 'Cool.' I was trying to act cool. And I was like, 'Oh, yeah, no problem.' Realize I don't know a thing about baseball at all. My cousin is Barry Larkin. You know, he's a big name in the baseball world. Can't tell you anything about baseball.
So before that game, I'm watching some clips, and trying to read some articles on the structure and how people keep score, and I was looking up all the terminology. So I'm trying to compare it to football as much as I can. But I got in there, I felt like I was not prepared at all. I got up there in the booth ... I'm taking notes. I took four pages of notes. I took all the notes. I took so many notes the whole game. ... So I'm going home and all my friends are, 'Hey, you want to hang out?' And I'm like, 'No, I have pressing business.' This has to be submitted before 8. The game ended at 6. I have two hours ... But honestly, it was a fun experience, and I was proud of myself because I went in without a lot of knowledge about it, but I came out and it was published, and a lot of people said they liked my work, and I used terminology the right way. And when I sent it in to the (editors) to tighten it up and everything, I expected it would look totally different from the version I submitted, but it was almost the same.
I hear you. Editors can be brutal.
Oh, yeah. Sometimes kind of scary. You see those lines, you're like, "Oh, I thought that was a good part."
Jerry didn't mention I am an assistant editor for The Dispatch, did he?
Oh, no. Not at all. (Laughs) Can be scary. But at the same time, I do feel it's good to get another set of eyes on it, too.
Nice save. Is there anything you don't do well?
I can't speak Spanish. Oh, I can't play basketball. Ew, you do not want to put a basketball in my hand at all. I know I'm really tall. Cannot play basketball. I can't really dance, but I'm learning how to do the salsa, how to samba. I'm learning how to do a little bit of that, but regular dancing? Can't do that. I'm the type that's just like bobbing my head.
Where are you learning how to salsa and samba?
Well, this past summer when I had some free time, I went down to Cincinnati. They have some Salsa in the Park right by the fountain. So I was down there. I was getting it on. It was fun. I'm pretty good at it. I'm pretty good at it now.
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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Paris Johnson: Meet the Ohio State football offensive lineman