Following his graduation from Ohio State, Mark’s only immediate goal was to write a book about all that he hadn’t covered on the blog. His relationship with Simmons allowed him to secure an agent and subsequent book deal, and he has since begun writing full-time for Simmons’ new ESPN website, Grantland.com, covering college basketball.
“I decided to write a book after the first year of writing my blog,” says Titus. “I kind of realized that was the end game, partly because I had two years on the team that I didn’t write the blog, so there were a lot of stories. I knew when I graduated I would have the freedom to write what I want.”
Titus contends that despite no longer being handcuffed by the school or the NCAA, there is nothing in the book he feels is damning toward the university or college basketball. After allowing a few Ohio State coaches and officials to get a look at an early edition, there was one story that he was asked to remove, regarding a teammate and marijuana. Titus felt the story wasn’t necessary to the book, so he agreed to take it out.
“Sometimes he would try to stretch it, but I think Mark knew that line,” says Coach Boals. “I think Mark has great admiration for Coach Matta and The Ohio State University.”
Titus made it clear on numerous occasions that he has no intentions of embarrassing Ohio State or the sport. Rather, he wants to use his unique position to tell stories and give insights that people generally wouldn’t get when following a college basketball team. And as is evident with Titus, both in his writing and over the course of our conversation, telling stories is what he is best at. In discussing everything from his favorite teammate (Will Buford) to his least favorite (Kosta Koufas), his sincerity is somewhat shocking. It’s almost as if it never crosses his mind to simply give a politically correct response, whether he’s talking about head coach Thad Matta…
“Greg (Oden) was the most prized thing Coach Matta ever had in his life. (He) threw a party at his house after Greg committed to Ohio State. Had all the coaches over and everything.”
…Club Trillion groupies…
“Real groupies want you to do them in the tour bus or bring them back to the dorm room or whatever. But my groupies weren’t like that. They would just ask for pictures and they were really shy.”
“He’s just your stereotypical basketball player. If you were to ask your grandma what she thinks of the guys in the NBA, that would be Daequan Cook that she’s talking about.”
…playing with Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward in high school…
“He was 5-11, 150 pounds when I was there. He was like a mama’s boy and a nerd and kind of puny.”
…or inviting Evan Turner to his wedding…
“It was a controversial decision in my household because we saw how he behaved at (former Buckeye) Jon Diebler’s wedding. He walked into the ceremony late, comes in the back as they’re saying their vows and starts dapping up everybody in the back row.”
Ultimately, the book is really just an extension of the blog – Titus being himself. And those close to him are expecting similar results.
“Pretty much the reason he came to Ohio State was because of Michael Conley, Greg Oden and Daquean Cook, and all of those guys are millionaires playing in the NBA,” says Coach Boals. “Mark’s gonna end up being just as successful as those guy, just in a different career path.”
*** *** ***
The book deal, the ESPN job, the fame and notoriety – these are not normal outcomes for a college walk-on. But Mark Titus is trying to change that.
“I like to think that somewhere along the line, I earned some respect for walk-ons,” Titus says, slowly scratching the scruff on his cheek. “That those who knew my story, now they won’t immediately dismiss them. A lot of them have cool stories or some weird skill. They have personality. They’re cool guys.”
After all he’s been through and all that he has accomplished on a personal level, that’s Mark’s response when I ask what he is most proud of. Not the money, not the recognition, not the chants of “Mark the Shark” reverberating throughout Big 10 arenas. In the end, Mark Titus is still a walk-on at heart, still the same quirky, introverted kid quietly cracking jokes on the end of the bench.
“Really, I am just every other bench warmer personified. You bring them all together and I’m just the voice of all these people that sit the bench. There’s really nothing that special about me except that I had the idea to start writing about it,” says Titus, deep in thought. “But certainly the whole thing is kind of nuts to look back on. It’s not supposed to happen this way.”
And with that, he gathered up his garbage, wiped off the table, and took for the door, holding it open for a few guys walking in the opposite direction. Head down, he waved sheepishly before quietly drifting away, surrounded by the dark night air, never making a sound.
Just like a walk-on would.
What do you think?
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