Some of his teammates call him “Mr. Everything.”
Others just call him crazy.
Sophomore Chris Gamble is Ohio State’s wide receiver-defensive back-kick return specialist-human motor.
The only thing the Sunrise, Fla. native can’t seem to do is sit still.
In the Buckeyes’ overtime victory at Illinois last Saturday, coach Jim Tressel said Gamble was on the field for 128 of the 150 snaps.
“He’s never tired … at least when you ask him,” Tressel said.
Ever since Gamble, Ohio State’s second-leading receiver with 28 catches, aided a depleted Buckeyes’ secondary by playing both sides of the ball four weeks ago against Penn State, he’s made an immediate impact.
He returned one of his team-leading four interceptions for the game-winning touchdown against the Nittany Lions. Two weeks later, Gamble recorded the game-clinching pick against Purdue to keep the Buckeyes’ national title hopes alive.
“He does everything for us,” said quarterback Craig Krenzel. “He is deserving of one of the best, if not the best player in college football. He is in such great shape. You never see him breathing heavily in the huddle. He never loses that fifth gear and continues to just makes plays for us.”
And even on the Big Ten’s top defense – which allows just 11.3 points per game and features two-time All America safety Mike Doss -some Buckeyes aren’t ashamed to call Gamble their best bet.
Not to mention Doss himself, who said he sometimes marvels at Gamble’s ability to change a game on his own.
“I think he has great instincts; he’s very athletic,” Doss said. “There’s not a play he can’t make. He can make any play out there, no matter what side of ball he’s on.”
Sound familiar to Michigan fans? A player Gamble draws comparisons to is Charles Woodson, who offered a similar multi-dimensional threat in the late ’90s for the Maize and Blue. Big special teams plays like Woodson’s 78-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Buckeyes in 1997 have characterized the oft considered “best rivalry in college football.”
And a critical punt return or interception by Gamble could play a huge role in this Saturday’s game, as there’s no secret that while the Buckeyes boast a stingy defense, they have scored fewer than 20 points in three of their past five games.
“If you possess the ball, it’s going to come down to who makes the least mistakes,” Michigan quarterback John Navarre said. “That’s the difference.”
Navarre admittedly made plenty of mistakes in last year’s loss to the Buckeyes – throwing four interceptions. Gamble wasn’t in the Ohio State secondary then, but he will be licking his chops this time around.
“This is a big-time rivalry matchup, and I just want to get fired up and go out there and make big plays,” Gamble said. “We are in The Shoe and we are going to play 100 percent on both sides of the ball.”
And that’s just old hat for Gamble.