Sports

Josh Kristoff: Excellence On And Off The Gridiron

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Peyton Manning won it. Tim Tebow won it. Now Ohio safety Josh Kristoff has a chance to do the same.

The award is the William V. Campbell Trophy, an accolade presented to a student athlete in his senior year, or final year, of athletic eligibility. The recipient must carry at least a 3.2 GPA on a 4.0 scale, perform at a high level on the gridiron as a first teamer or significant contributor, and demonstrate high levels of leadership and citizenship.

“Whether or not I win it, just being in a group with names like Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning– it’s just really a great honor and I’m very thankful for it,” Kristoff said.

The Bobcats’ safety was named a semifinalist for the award in September, and he is certainly worthy.

“[He is] a guy that’s always willing to go the extra mile to help his teammates out,” fellow Ohio safety Thad Ingol said. “[He is] always doing the right thing … Always takes charge– A leader on and off the field. Safeties are supposed to be the quarterbacks of the defense and I would for sure say he holds up to that. He probably knows every position on the field.”

In 2013 Kristoff recorded a career-high 72 tackles and played in all 13 of Ohio’s games. At 6-foot-0 and 200 pounds he isn’t the most physically imposing safety. His prowess on the field comes from a tireless work ethic and cerebral aptitude. Those qualities have translated well to his off-the-field activities, where he really shines.

At 23 with a bald-shaved head, a full brown beard and a mild voice, Kristoff appears wise beyond his years. In just three years he earned a bachelor’s degree in Integrated Mathematics and at the conclusion of the 2014 fall semester he will earn a master’s degree in Coaching Education.

To get ahead, Kristoff took 18 to 19 credit hours a semester as an undergrad. He’s so far ahead he only needs to take 10 credit hours this semester to earn his masters. He will do so all while maintaining a 3.8 GPA – a conservative estimate on his part.

In addition to academic accomplishments, Kristoff has tutored fellow students since his first semester at Ohio. He has even served as an assistant coach for a seventh grade baseball team in Athens – an experience he considers one of his favorites in more than four years as a Bobcat.

“We had 20 games and went 16-4,” Kristoff said. “[I] had a lot of fun with them and hope that [I] made a difference with them.”

Being a difference-maker is something Kristoff has always strived to do, especially regarding education.

“Ever since I got here, I have always pushed academics,” Kristoff said. “Even [with] guys on the team– I always push them too. Football is going to end someday. You have to make sure you have the most education possible [and] I try to push them to get the most out of their academic experience.”

From practices, workouts and film breakdowns to classes and tutoring sessions, Kristoff spends more than half of his day on campus. Every morning he arrives at Peden Stadium at 7:30 a.m. He often doesn’t head home until 8 p.m. or later.

Managing so many commitments is a challenge Kristoff has become proficient at. His secret is organization. Extreme organization. At the beginning of every semester he plans out his entire schedule on a spreadsheet. Almost every minute of the day is accounted for.

“I plan most of my meals out,” Kristoff said. “I know when I’m gonna eat. I know where I’m going to eat. I pack a lot of lunches now. Today I made all my meals for lunch for the entire week. You have be organized and you have to have a plan … If you can’t do time management, you’re not going to be able to succeed.”

“He goes the extra mile to prepare and that’s not only on the football field but [also] in the classroom,” Ohio defensive coordinator and safeties coach Jimmy Burrow said. “You can’t have the standards that he’s set for himself academically and athletically unless you’re on top of it all the time.”

Kristoff’s attention to detail, leadership and academic prowess helped him land a job that awaits him once the Bobcats wrap up their 2014 season. He is certified to teach math in the state of Ohio from grades seven to 12. Last spring he juggled substitute with all of his other commitments. On Jan. 5, he becomes a full time teacher at Reynoldsburg High School in Columbus.

“The things he does for our defense and football team carries over into his study habits, into his preparation for tests and preparations for presentations,” Burrow said. “I think it all kind of leads to, at some point in time, [him being] a great teacher and a great football coach.”

Before the Bobcat safety heads a high school football program, he still has one last college season to lead the Green and White. Before that season kicked off he was elected a team captain by his teammates.

With Ohio’s respect endorsing him as capable leader on and off the field, Kristoff is honored by the distinction.

“He’s not a ‘rah-rah-yell-and-scream’ kind of guy,” Burrow said. “He knows the way to get points across to our young guys and our veterans about how to practice, how to get better and prepare. It’s not always about who’s the loudest in a huddle. It’s about who’s the most respected and who has the most important things to say.”

This season Kristoff has battled injuries that have restricted his playing time. He was held out of Ohio’s first two games with a hamstring injury and since returning to playing time on game days, his snaps have been limited. At full strength he can play 70 snaps or more, but in three games this season he has been kept around 35 snaps per contest.

According to Burrow, there hasn’t been a hint of a complaint from his captain.

“[In] the first couple of games when he wasn’t actually in pads he was still a big help to us on the sidelines, giving us different reads and things that we might not be seeing while we were out there,” Ingol said. “It might kind of be over our head but coming off the field he was helping us with our adjustments and helping the younger guys get adjusted to playing.”

Burrow said examples like that are why Kristoff is a captain, and why he’s nominated for honors like the Campbell Trophy.

He is just one of 167 semifinalists for the award. The National Football Foundation Awards Committee will name 16 finalists on Oct. 30, and one will be declared the winner on Dec 9. Finalists are awarded an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship. The winner receives $25,000 scholarship and the 25-pound bronze Campbell Trophy.

It goes without saying that winning the award would be an astounding accomplishment, but by Dec. 9, Kristoff will be just as happy, if not moreso, to have led the Bobcats to a Mid-American Conference championship and late bowl-season trip.