Mike Lanese

Former Buckeye football captain Mike Lanese holds his own personal place in the history of the Ohio State-Michigan rival. His clutch third-down catch in the 1984 game helped the Buckeyes get a win in The Game. AFN caught up with Mike earlier this week to get his take on the greatest rivalry in college football.

1. COMING FROM MAYFIELD HIGH SCHOOL, YOUR FINAL COLLEGE CHOICES WERE OHIO STATE AND MICHIGAN. WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE OHIO STATE?
Mostly sanity and good taste. Admittedly, though, I was actually leaning pretty heavily towards Michigan before I made my final decision. At the time, Bo was doing a great job recruiting in the Cleveland area, and most of the kids in town were heading to Ann Arbor. My father played at Miami (Ohio) in the mid-1950s, so there was also an indirect connection to Bo and his staff.

I suppose I changed my mind, in part, because Earle promised that I'd get a shot at playing tailback (a promise I later learned he'd made to Keith Byars as well). But the real reason had nothing to do with any kind of intellectual analysis of the pros and cons. I just woke up one day after a fitful night's sleep and had an epiphany. I suddenly realized that I had to be a Buckeye. Later that day I called Randy Hart, Earle's assistant coach responsible for recruiting Cleveland, to inform him of my decision. And that was it. Other than questioning the quality of Columbus-based pizza over the years, I've never looked back.

2. WHAT MAKES THE OHIO STATE-MICHIGAN RIVALRY SO SPECIAL?
I could probably cite several reasons, but the most important one revolves around a simple but accurate observation: familiarity breeds contempt. As a result of Michigan importing the majority of its coaching talent and culture from Ohio State, the Wolverine program looks and feels a lot like our program. Michigan also abducts most of its players from Ohio, so it's likely that many of the kids played with or against each other in high school and know each other pretty well. As with most great rivalries in any sport at any level, the more similar the teams and the more familiar the players, the more intense the emotions. Even in an off year, there's more emotion and pride in an Ohio State-Michigan game than in any other sporting event in the country. It is truly the greatest rivalry in sports. I guess I'd have to grudgingly admit that the guys with the odd-looking helmets have had something to do with that.

3. YOUR 17-YARD CATCH ON THIRD AND 14 AGAINST MICHIGAN IN 1984 IS STILL A PLAY MANY BUCKEYE FANS REMEMBER. WHAT DO YOU RECALL ABOUT THAT PLAY, AND DO YOU STILL HEAR ABOUT IT FROM FANS?
It's always a surprise to me, but I still get comments about it. At about this time every year-especially now that I live in the Columbus area-a few people stop me on the street or send an e-mail and congratulate me for the catch. I've always found it interesting that no one ever seems to remember that, before the catch, there was a fumble. With a few minutes left in the first half, I tried to return a punt and ended up fumbling the ball inside of our own 20 yard line. But as a result of the 17-yard catch in the second half, I was selected as the MVP of the game. Without the catch, I could have easily become the LVP. It's funny how a few rotations of the ball can end up determining how you're perceived by the public for years to come.

I wrote about the game and catch in some detail a few years ago for a chapter in a book called Game of My Life - Ohio State . I posted the chapter in a blog I write for Buckeye Legends.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY PHOTO ARCHIVES

4. HOW DO YOU SEE THIS WEEKEND'S GAME PLAYING OUT?
I know Coach Tressel will go to great lengths this week to talk up the Wolverines and the history of the rivalry. That's what a good coach has to do. But the rest of us can state the obvious: the 2008 Michigan football team is really awful. I have mixed feelings about an awful Michigan team. On the one hand, I'm happy to see Michigan get humiliated by just about anyone. Appalachian State, Toledo, Otterbein (okay, Otterbein has not yet beaten Michigan). It serves them right for that obnoxious fight song. On the other hand, an awful Michigan team doesn't help the Big Ten conference. I've argued in my blog that Ohio State won't be taken seriously again as a national power until they play a tougher in-conference schedule. Even though we have tremendous talent and brilliant coaching, we have to play good football teams in order to get ready for Florida, USC, and LSU in the post-season. So a strong Michigan program would improve the conference and eventually help Ohio State win another national championship.

As for a prediction, if Rich Rodriguez has the good sense to study the rivalry and understand, at a visceral level, the emotion of the game, then he might be able to get his kids to play above their ability. But this is Rich Rodriguez we're talking about. If he had any sense he would've stayed at West Virginia. So look for Terrelle Pryor and a maturing Buckeye offense to put 28 points on the board. And look for the Buckeye defense to continue to improve and hold a dysfunctional (but at times dangerous) Wolverine offense to a touchdown and two field goals.

5. AFTER GRADUATION, YOU HAD SOME UNIQUE EXPERIENCES, INCLUDING SERVING IN THE MILITARY AND ATTENDING OXFORD. WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT YOURSELF FROM THOSE EXPERIENCES?
I've been extremely fortunate to have been able to pursue many different adventures. After graduating from Ohio State, I spent two years at Worcester College, Oxford, studying philosophy, politics and economics (PPE). I learned two important things in England. First, throughout the span of world history, English weather and food have been fairly judged. Second, despite my contribution, Oxford is still the center of the universe in terms of academic excellence. I discovered the hard way that the Oxford tutorial system, in which students interact directly with professors (dons), is superior to the standard lecture-test approach. Several years ago I wrote a proposal for a program that would introduce a modified tutorial program into the Ohio State Honors Program. It would be, according to me, a groundbreaking and amazingly effective program that could help develop leaders in politics, business, and academia. One of these days I might be able to convince someone to actually read it.

After Oxford I returned to the U.S. and tried to play football again. I signed on as free agent with the Cleveland Browns but, unfortunately, couldn't displace the other slow, possession receivers to make the final roster. At the end of summer camp, I was unceremoniously dismissed by Marty Schottenheimer, a legendary coach who still hasn't won a Super Bowl.

I then made the best decision of my professional life when I applied to become an officer in the U.S. Navy. After graduating from Officer Candidate School, I served onboard USS Sterett (CG-31) as a Surface Warfare Officer. I spent a little over four years in the Navy and walked away with a lifetime's worth of education. In leadership and management I'm Navy-trained to the core, and I'll draw from that training for the rest of my career. I've had great jobs in the private sector, but I've often wondered whether I made the right decision to resign my commission. Obviously, Navy guys don't make much money; but when you put your uniform on in the morning, you know exactly why you're there. I can't tell you how excited I am that we're playing the Midshipmen of the Naval Academy, my second favorite team, in the 2009 season. It'll be a great chance for our guys to learn more about the service academies and, hopefully, develop an appreciation for the path their opponents have chosen. When the Middies graduate, instead of playing football on Sundays they'll become Naval or Marine officers and eventually sail into harm's way. During the game Ohio State fans should, of course, cheer for the Buckeyes. But they should also find a way to show a little respect for the young men standing on the visitors' sideline.

6. WHAT PROJECTS ARE YOU WORKING ON CURRENTLY?
I'm currently the CEO of ClearSaleing, Inc., an exciting and innovative advertising technology company based in Columbus. We help large, sophisticated advertisers improve the ROI from their online marketing investments and ensure financial accountability for their advertising budgets. We've created the first portfolio management platform for advertisers that enables them to efficiently allocate advertising resources and improve the performance of their online campaigns. We have an incredibly talented and experienced team, and almost everyone in the company has a connection to Ohio State. We've had a great deal of success recently. But, surprisingly, we haven't yet been able to do much business in the whole state of Michigan.

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Mike Lanese was a co-captain of the 1985 Buckeyes. He was selected as a two-time Academic All-American and Rhodes Scholar.