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Keeping the Buckeyes trucking is a family affair

An 18-wheeler loaded with helmets, pads and equipment pulls out of the parking lot of Ohio Stadium on a Wednesday evening. It will be closer to dawn when it reaches Evanston, Illinois.

The Ohio State University football team routed Northwestern 52-3 later that week, but the Buckeyes don’t even get on the field if the truck doesn’t show up. For Ken Blair III, making sure this precious cargo arrives on time has been a family affair since he was a walk-on football player under Earle Bruce.

“I walked on in 1981 for the Ohio State football team and at the Liberty Bowl, we were carrying our bags out and throwing them on a rental truck,” Blair said. “And my dad was standing there, all feisty, and he said, ‘What are we doing?’ He said, ‘We’re doing this next year.’”

Blair’s father owned Circle Express, a family trucking company in Granville, and started hauling the equipment for the team 39 years ago. The business continues to be a family affair. Blair is now the owner; his wife, Annette, is vice president of human resources; and their daughter, Morgan, is vice president of operations.

“Playing football was my dream,” Blair said. “So still being a part of the teams has been pretty solid.”

The Ohio State Express has crisscrossed America, from Big Ten showdowns in New Jersey and Nebraska to bowl games in Tampa and Tempe. A trip to Seattle for a game against the University of Washington remains the longest haul.

“We’ve been in New Orleans for some fun ball games and my last game was in the Rose Bowl. I do enjoy going out there,” Blair said. “I enjoy the trip. I enjoy seeing America and the countryside.”

Blair said the Big Ten schools remain his favorite trips. He said fans across the Midwest are often hospitable. However, the scarlet and gray don’t always get a warm reception.

“You probably always have a finger thrown at you, and you never know which one it’s going to be, but you’re always everybody’s No. 1 fan,” he said.

Blair became emotional when he discussed what Ohio State means to him and his family.

“It was my dream to be Buckeye,” he said. “My mom and my dad gave me the opportunity to stand on my own two feet and make something of myself. I’m so glad I didn’t accept some of the other scholarships I had. I’m so glad I walked on at Ohio State. I’m so glad I went that route, because it made me who I am today.”

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