What the F*ck is a Buckeye?

Photo posted by Amy Berger on Pinterest.com

Penn Staters, the most anticipated football game of the season is just around the corner:  the annual Penn State-Ohio State football game. Two of the Big 10’s biggest rivals will face off on the field to see who will end up on top. It’s the most glorious time of the year again when every Nittany Lion asks themselves… What the f*ck is a buckeye?

Is it a bean? Is it a seed? What are those crazy looking leaves on their helmets? Why’d they name it Brutus? A Penn Stater really couldn’t tell you.

In honor of the whiteout game this Halloween, VALLEY ventured behind enemy lines for some pre-game intel. After all, what’s a little friendly competition without some behind the scenes reconnaissance? Here’s a quick rundown on Ohio State’s rather interesting choice of mascot.

The Buckeye Nut
Photo from ohiostatebuckeyes.com

Ladies and gentlemen, blue and white fans near and far, this is a buckeye — the mysterious OSU mascot in its natural habitat. According to the Ohio State Buckeyes website, a buckeye is “a small, shiny, dark brown nut with a light tan patch that comes from the official state tree of Ohio, the buckeye tree.” Terrifying. Nittany Lions versus the Nuts. Out of all the mascots OSU could have chosen, why on earth would they pick this one?

Significance of the Ohio State Buckeye

The “buckeye” name actually has some history behind it. The small nut was given its name because it resembles the eye of a deer.  Interestingly, buckeyes also have some superstitious value as well. According to local folklore, carrying a buckeye is a source of good luck.  (Well, that explains a lot)

So, a buckeye is just a nut named after male deer eyes and may just be the key to getting five winning tickets to the Powerball. Is that it? Not exactly. There’s more.

Starting in the late 18th century, the word “buckeye” was also used to describe early settlers of the Ohio State territory. According to the Ohio State Buckeyes website, a man is known for his large stature and distinct personality, Colonel Ebenezer Sproat, was the first Ohioan settler to carry the buckeye name. Starting in 1788, Native Americans greeted this particular individual with the word “Hetuck,” which translates to “buckeye,” and the nickname stuck.

Over the years, the buckeye nickname spread to other settlers in the community until it became a ubiquitous term to describe local Ohioans by the 1830s. As a result of its dual meaning, the buckeye plant essentially became a proud state symbol representing all Ohioans.  

So to answer the question a little more articulately, yes. Ohio State’s mascot is a small, dark brown nut named after deer eyeballs with (supposedly) magical properties. But—it is also someone from the state of Ohio. Okay, cool. Makes perfect sense. VALLEY is getting the hang of this.

OSU Helmet Stickers
Photo from ohiostatebuckeyes.com

What about those leafy looking things on their helmets? Those aren’t buckeyes, are they? Actually, yes. Those white and green decals are buckeye leaf stickers! How fun. Starting in 1967, players on OSU’s football team began receiving these decals for successful plays and consistency on the football field, according to OSU’s Sports website. The more stickers players have adorned on their helmets, the more successes they’ve had during games.

Brutus Buckeye
Photo from ohiostatebuckeyes.com

To make things even more interesting, meet Ohio State’s official mascot, Brutus, who is pretty much a buckeye attached to a human body. As Penn Staters with a traditionally unnamed mascot, you may be wondering how OSU settled on the name Brutus for their prized buckeye on the sidelines.

Surprisingly, he was actually named by a student in 1965. In search of a name for their peculiar mascot, OSU held a contest on campus, and one student, Kerry Reed, submitted the winning name. Reed commented on his choice of name in an interview, stating that “I liked alliteration and I thought it needed to be something that would carry a certain amount of heft and weight and maybe intimidation.”

Even still, we are left wondering. It’s a nut. It’s a plant. It has leaves. It’s a person, and he’s named Brutus. While Nittany Lions may never understand Ohio State’s obsession with the buckeye, one thing is sure. OSU fans will never cease to drive us nuts.

Let VALLEY know how you’re spending the whiteout game this weekend, and tag us @VALLEYmag on Instagram.


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