A casual smile attracts you in the first place. Then comes the omniscient, perfectly focused view of the cameras.
That was all Ohio State could do for Trey Serman – preparing him for television as officials examined whether he had scored a long-term touchdown against Clemson in the semifinals of college football last week. He knew — we all knew — he obviously didn’t.
Maybe the joke was with the rest of us. Of course, it became an instant meme. And no, that smile and look didn’t sell officials at a touch that never happened. But Sermon’s deliberate gaze with pursed lips, the three-second window to his transformation, like Ezekiel Elliott, in irresistible force after the season, brought a message:
Hey, world, I̵
– ESPN (@espn) January 2, 2021
The world is only seeing him now, after a two-game streak in which Sermon is running for 524 yards, scoring three touchdowns and becoming the biggest revelation of a breach in Ohio that didn’t have a true identity until he smashed the Northwest in the Big Ten. championship game. Its emergence has been in the making for years, first as a valuable recruit in high school, then as the back of Oklahoma, which slowly fell from the top of the depths, and now as a Terminator-like force ready to bulldoze and hinder the defenders of the latter. his quest to prove himself.
The sermon is on the brink of what Elliott did the last time Ohio won a national title in the 2014 season. Elliott collected the most dominant stretch of three games in school history, with 696 yards and eight touchdowns in the Grand Prix game. ten and the semi-finals and championship matches of the CFP to bring the Buckeyes – and that says something in a program known for its elite backs to the next level.
The comparison is not lost for anyone now that No. 3 Buccaneer is preparing to play No. 1 in Alabama at the National College Football Championship, presented by AT&T on Monday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida (20:00 ET, ESPN and the ESPN Annex). The sermon actually overtook Elliott in two games after the season.
“A lot of great running backs who have been here – and Zeke is one of the best running backs – just to be in this conversation is an honor,” the sermon said this week. “I just feel pretty good about what I’ve been able to achieve so far with the help of my offensive line.”
The sermon did so with resilience, which became one of his hallmarks. And to understand why he kept insisting when he seemed so insecure – between the current season and his role in the team – you need to understand his mother.
Natosha Mitchell experienced violence and domestic violence, as well as the death of her 2-year-old son in 1993, six years before Trey was born. At the time, her friend was convicted of killing the young child and sentenced to life in prison. Mitchell testified against him at the trial. Experiencing this pain and immeasurable loss, Mitchell turned to his grandmother and aunt for support. He began to think about his life. What did she want from that? Will grief determine her, or will she be able to move forward and use her own experience to help others?
Mitchell decided he wanted to be someone to look up to. She began to turn her life around after divorcing Trey’s father when her children were in elementary school. She moved to Tampa, Florida, from the Gulf of the same name with Trey and his older sister Oneisha, got a new job and started over.
“I decided that I would be the best mother I could be to my children, and I decided that I would have a good relationship with them,” she said in a recent telephone interview from Georgia, where she now lives.
Mitchell stopped dating and focused on them, went back to school and watched closely who was around her children the whole time. She recorded Trey playing football at the age of 5 while Oneisha began to cheer. Trey began to defend himself, and Mitchell fondly remembers that every time he fought someone, the PA spokesman would say, “The Terminator is hitting again!”
They eventually moved to Marietta, Georgia, and Trey played back at Sprayberry High School. He was ready to get a break in the youth season, but after catching a break at the opening of the season, he landed on a helmet and injured his back. Initially, doctors thought it was a strain, so he played next week. His coach at the time, Billy Shackelford, recalled that Sermon was 200 yards fast.
“The man barely managed to bend down and touch his toes,” Shackelford said in a telephone interview.
The sermon met the doctor again because it hurt so much. He had a broken bone in his back.
“It was an honest mistake, but he literally ran 200 yards with a broken back,” Shackelford said. “This is the perfect example of his tenacity, perseverance, love of the game and overcoming. Usually he hinders and tries to find gold outside the situation. It’s a real asset for him, the way he was raised and ultimately the warrior who is inside it. “
Mitchell said her insurance did not cover all of Trey’s necessary rehabilitation and treatment, so she sold her car and moved with her children from their apartment and hotel for 11 months. She uses the money she saves to get the best care for Trey.
“I just wanted to make sure he got the best treatment and I wanted to afford to pay for extra treatment,” she said. “I was determined it would work out, and he did.”
By his final year, scholarship proposals began to rub. The sermon eventually decided on Oklahoma. In 2017, Sermon was the Big Freshman of the Year at 12, second on the team with 744 yards fast and five touchdowns. His first career result was at Ohio Stadium – a 10-yard catch from Baker Mayfield – in Sooner’s 31-16 victory, during which Mayfield planted the Oklahoma flag in the middle.
Although he rushed for 947 yards the following season as a Sooner starter, Sermon seemed to fall out of favor with the 2019 rotation. His season ended after he tore the side of his knee in November. In March, he announced he would pass. The sermon said he just wanted a fresh start, but Mayfield tweeted that former Oklahoma coach, running back Jay Boulevard (who left for Texas after last season), had something to answer for:
@CoachJ_Boulware How’s UT? https://t.co/m8Gs3aC42m
– Baker Mayfield (@bakermayfield) January 2, 2021
In the end, Sermon chose Ohio because he had a good relationship with running coach Tony Alford during his high school recruiting period. But the pandemic presented a new set of challenges. The sermon had to continue to rehabilitate his knee injury until personal training in Columbus was allowed. He eventually split his time training with coaches in Houston and Georgia. When he finally got to work with teammates, his long-standing relationship with Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (both from Georgia) helped ease the transition. Even then, the Sermon missed an entire off-season conditioning program and a chance to develop the natural chemistry and rhythm that a runner should find success.
His plans for a fresh start almost evaporated when the Big Ten decided to postpone the start of the fall season in early August. To make matters worse, the Big 12 chose to play. The sermon had to sit and watch his old teammates start their season until he had no idea if he would get the opportunity he so desperately wanted.
“He was devastated,” Mitchell said. He thought to himself, “I can’t prove who I really am.” And that was the biggest thing for him, thinking, “No one can see who I am or what I can do. They’ve seen a little bit of him, but they haven’t seen the real me yet.” I kept trying to encourage him. He came back later and he said, “Oh, I think we’re going to have a season.” I said, “You have to keep insisting; you have to keep believing. ”
After the Buckeyes launched in late October, Sermon had a hard time finding a role, as Master Teague III had the starting job. In the first four games, Sermon had 45 runs for 232 yards and no touchdown. But Ohio coach Ryan Day said he noticed a change in Michigan’s game on Dec. 5 as Sermon began to feel better about the crime, registering 10 shipments for 112 yards and two touchdowns.
Yet Dan could never have foreseen what would happen next. Ohio State and Fields failed to win anything in the Big Ten championship game against the Northwest. Then Teague was hurt. Dan put all his faith into the Sermon, which responded with a school record of 331 yards and two touchdowns, almost coinciding with his overall quick score from his first five games (344).
“You see the best version of Trey,” Day said. The best part is that when everything that was going on, he never came into my office, he never complained, he never said, “I need more media,” none of that, he just went on every day. to work.”
Although Fields bounced back with a stellar performance with six touches in the CFP semifinals against Clemson, it’s hard to forget how Sermon also dominated, finishing with 193 yards and a quick result, in addition to his instant meme. (A look, by the way, his mother says he constantly gives to her and his sister.)
Mitchell was in New Orleans for the semifinals, and she said she plans to be in Miami on Monday night with her 9-year-old granddaughter, Amia, who remains close with Uncle Trey.
Mitchell kept her promises to help others by writing a book about her experiences entitled When My Soul Cries: Healing, Forgiveness, and Liberation. She is about to earn a doctorate in psychology from the University of Arizona in April. And she created Arise from Faith Inc., a non-profit organization for domestic violence and domestic loss that focuses on providing resources and assistance to those in need.
The resilience that Mitchell showed gave examples of a lifetime for both of his children.
“I just saw all the things she went through, how she just managed to persevere, still working hard for our family and I feel that it just helped me throughout my career because I faced a lot of challenges, a lot of adversity. “But I know there’s light at the end of the tunnel again, so I just have to keep working hard and I know it’s going to pay off.”
It was as if he had been here the whole time.