Meet five Buckeyes fans who take their enthusiasm to another level.
They’re as familiar a sight each fall as Brutus Buckeye and silver helmets splattered with attaboy leaves. Ohio State’s decorated super fans stand out in the throng of 100,000-plus, making cameos on your flat-screen TVs on Saturdays during college football season. Who are these guys? Under painted faces and wild getups, they’re just like you and me … sort of.
Jon ‘Big Nut’ Peters
By day, Peters, 52, of Fremont, is a materials handler at Whirlpool Corp. in Clyde. By game day, he’s Big Nut, familiar for his painted face, Block O jersey, scarlet or gray leg warmers on his arms, and legs wrapped in silver tape.
“Big can also refer to my waistline. I’m 299-plus [pounds],” says Peters, who also does play-by-play for local high school football and basketball cable broadcasts.
The character of Big Nut was born in 1995 when Peters won a “best dressed” contest at an Ohio State-Michigan athletic fundraiser at Fremont Ross High School. The winner took home a basket of cookies. The sweets were apparently so tasty that Peters cranked up the costume the next year and won again.
Peters, married and a grandfather, grew up listening to Ohio State games on the radio with his grandfather. He attends every Buckeye game, home and away, “unless there’s a family emergency.”
Fans ask him to pose for pictures with them. TV cameras lock in on him. And, with money from appearances and the sale of T-shirts, calendars and beer koozies, Peters established the Big Nut Scholarship Fund in 2011 to reward Sandusky County high school seniors headed to Ohio State.
“I want to have anyone, [even] a bystander or someone who doesn’t follow a college, look at me in a way that says, ‘I want to be a Buckeye,’ ” says Peters.
John ‘Buck-I -Guy’ Chubb
Chubb was born 3 miles from Ohio Stadium, grew up in Columbus and still lives 15 minutes from what diehards refer to as The Horseshoe, or simply The Shoe.
But it wasn’t until 2003 that Buck-I -Guy made his first appearance.
For fun, Chubb attended the Indiana game that season in a white 10-gallon Ohio State cowboy hat that had been sitting on his TV for months. He caught the eye of a TV reporter, who interviewed him, and his alter ego was born.
Buck-I-Guy dresses in all white, from the tip of his hat and 6-foot-long cape, shirt and pants to his boots. He accessorizes with eye black and paints his mustache scarlet.
It wasn’t until 2006, when he added the cape for a big game in Texas, that media were all over him, says the 53-year-old self-employed computer salesman.
“The world changed that day,” says Chubb, who drives a scarlet and gray 1970 Impala. “It went viral.”
Larry ‘Buckeyeman’ Lokai
Between Larry, his wife, in-laws and siblings, the Lokai family has earned 18 degrees from Ohio State. Now his four grandchildren are, or are planning to become, Buckeyes.
As if that weren’t devotion enough, Lokai, 71, a retired high school agriculture teacher from Urbana, wears his scarlet and gray heart on his striped pants and sleeves, face and fright wig that he says “kinda looks like Phyllis Diller meets Mick Jagger.” He wears seven necklaces — one for each of OSU’s national titles — totaling seven pounds of buckeyes. The necklaces have 109 nuts that represent each time his team has played rival Michigan (November’s match-up will add one more).
Buckeyeman debuted in 1998, when Lokai decided to dress up after scoring tickets behind the Michigan bench. The character took off in 2000 when he finished third in a Hall’s cough drops national scream-off to find the loudest college football fan.
Lokai now does about 110 functions a year, including “Becoming a Nut” orientation sessions for incoming Ohio State students. Buckeyeman has been invited to appear at four weddings, countless nursing homes and a post-funeral pep rally held at a county fairgrounds. This season will see Buckeyeman reach a milestone: He will have given away more than 31,000 buckeye necklaces. (He anticipates he will have collected a million buckeyes by OSU’s homecoming this year.)
He’ll have more time to string them. Lokai recently retired from Urbana City Council after almost 10 years. “City Council,” he says, “was interfering with my Buckeyeman activities.”
Dennis ‘Jim Tressel’ Singleton
It’s been more than two years since an NCAA investigation resulted in Jim Tressel’s resignation as Ohio State football coach. But that hasn’t hurt fan enthusiasm for Singleton, a 65-year-old retired Pepsi-Cola salesman from Huber Heights and Tressel look-alike.
“I find people still get a kick out of it and still have the same opinion of him that I do, which is positive,” he says.
During Tressel’s reign, friends would suggest the resemblance, although Singleton couldn’t see it. Then, for Christmas 2006, his wife gave him a sweater vest, which, of course, was Tressel’s signature.
“When I wore that … boy, that was magic,” he says. “It was amazing.”
When TV cameras zeroed in on him at an Ohio State game, ESPN labeled him “Jimposter.” Out of respect for Tressel, Singleton doesn’t wear his sweater vest on campus anymore. That hasn’t slowed the autograph hounds, although Singleton makes sure those he signs for realize he’s not Tressel. (One disbeliever made him produce his driver’s license.)
Roger ‘Woody Hayes’ Thomas
Thomas “became” the legendary Ohio State coach organically. When the now-retired commodities trader from Tipp City and Sandy, his wife of 47 years, would go to sports bars to watch the Buckeyes, patrons would call him “Coach” or “Woody” because he looked and sounded just like Hayes.
But the persona came to life when he started wearing a Woody-like black Block O ball cap, black dress pants and a white short-sleeve shirt with a tie — even in cold weather. “Had to be like Woody, you know,” he says.
Even his hometown optometrist, an Ohio State grad, got into the act, customizing Woody-style frames for Thomas’ prescription.
Larry “Buckeyeman” Lokai would take Thomas to alumni events, where he, of course, was a huge hit. There were even a few seasons when the two of them attended every game, home and away.
Unfortunately, those days are gone. Now 74, serious health problems have sidelined Thomas, who isn’t up for attending games anymore. But he still basks in the memories.
“I met a lot of really nice people,” he says, recalling one pregame tailgate visit where a woman picked up a camera and said, “‘Let me take a picture of you with Jack.’ I said, ‘Jack who?’ It was Jack Nicklaus.”