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A bag of buckeyes carries family tradition at Ohio State

The next time you are walking into Ohio Stadium before a football game, look for the man with the buckeye bag.

For the last three years, Doug Malone has been handing out buckeyes to Ohio State football players as they enter the stadium on their way to the locker room. Malone is a redcoat for the Department of Athletics. Redcoats perform special duties to aid guests at university athletic events.

“Well you know it’s kind of funny, at the end of the day, I think all anyone sees is a guy standing there holding a bag of buckeyes,” Malone said. “But what they don’t see is the reason why I do it.”

Malone lost his father, Ronald, to cancer three years ago. His father began the buckeye handout pregame ritual 13 years ago. Malone said picking up the bag is a way to honor his dad and carry on the tradition.

Malone said his earliest recollection of the tradition was before the 2005 game against the University of Texas. He and his father were walking by the locker room and one of the equipment managers called out and said that Luke Fickell, the team’s defensive coordinator at the time, needed a buckeye.

“Apparently, he liked to keep a buckeye in his pocket for good luck,” Malone said. “My dad happened to have one and he sent it back with the equipment manager and then, as we were walking back toward the gate, he told me, ‘You know what, I think I'm going to start handing buckeyes out.’”

The idea soon became reality. Ronald would go to a local park to pick up buckeyes and bring them to every game.

Malone said toward the end of the 2015 season, his father encouraged him to carry on the tradition. He said the last game they saw together was against Michigan State.

“At this point … he wasn't doing so well,” Malone said. “And I think we both kind of knew that that was probably gonna be the last game. He would kind of show me where I would need to stand. He said, ‘This is where you need to stand to hand out these buckeyes.’

“I kind of knew what he was doing but I didn’t let on because we don’t give up.”

Ronald Malone passed away in 2016, and the father and son tradition is now a team effort.

Malone said he gets buckeyes from the people who sell necklaces around the stadium and fellow redcoats who collect them during the season.

“I look at it as an honor. When I stand at the north rotunda and I see the team coming toward me, I kind of get a little lump in my throat. [I get] a chill down my spine and I can sense his presence,” he said. “I feel like he’s there with me every game, even to this day. I wish I would have had a picture of him handing out buckeyes, because I think he was in seventh heaven there. And now he’s got the best seat in the house.”

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