“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” Mary Anne Radmacher
November 12, 2022 – Ohio Stadium – Ohio State University: An insignificant 4th quarter touchdown pass in a blowout game put Ohio State up 56-14 over the Indiana Hoosiers, but it was magical for Kam Babb. All who knew his story understood why Kam dropped to his knees in the endzone to savor the moment for what seemed like forever.
The 5th year wide receiver knelt to pray after catching an 8-yard touchdown pass for the Buckeyes. He was thankful for the chance to play in his final game. He was thankful for a touchdown catch. And he was thankful for his parents, teammates and coaches, who had encouraged him not to quit. After praying, Kam stood and was mobbed by his teammates.
Kamryn Babb was wowing peewee football coaches on the ball fields of St. Louis, Missouri, by age 9. The young phenom did things that weren’t coachable. He started as a freshman wide receiver at perennial football power Christian Brothers College High School. By his junior year, Kam had received so many college recruiting letters that his mother, Amanda, bought a tote bag to save them all.
As a senior, he helped CBC win another 6A football championship despite tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his knee in the 7th game and having his season cut short. He was the best football player at CBC High School in 20 years. Kam was the country’s No. 6 wide receiver prospect and the 84th best player overall according to the ESPN Top 100 list.
Kam had scholarship offers from most blue-chip schools, including Alabama, USC, Georgia and Texas. In 2018 he settled on Ohio State. It was an exciting time for the Babb family. Then Kam tore the ACL in his other knee in fall practice before his freshman season. Months of rehab followed, only for him to tear the same ACL in the spring of 2019.
Three ACL surgeries in less than two years. Kam lived in the rehab facility. He was discouraged and didn’t know what to do. He needed to step back and evaluate his future. In his dorm room he prayed, “God, what do you want me to do?” Then he called his mother in St. Louis and told her he was coming home. Amanda met him at the airport.
They sat on the couch and cried. “Mama, I just don’t think I can do this anymore. It’s too hard. I don’t think football is in the cards for me.” Amanda asked, “Kam, can you look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are OK with quitting?” After giving it some thought he decided, “No, I can’t.” Two days later, Kam returned to rehab at Ohio State with renewed faith and determination.
In 2020, he got to play on special teams for the Buckeyes. Teammates were so impressed with his grit and fortitude that they elected Kam team captain. And he was chosen by the coaches to wear the coveted No. 0 jersey. The 2021 season looked promising, until a fourth ACL injury. Most players would have quit at this point. But even after two ACL surgeries on both knees, and six knee surgeries overall, Kam was still determined to get on the field.
In early November 2022, doctors cleared him to play in his final home game against Indiana. Before the game, Buckeye quarterback C.J. Stroud asked Head Coach Ryan Day if he could throw a pass to Kam if Ohio State had a comfortable lead. Late in the game, with the ball at the Hoosier 8-yard line, Kam entered the game. Stroud rolled right and threw a perfect strike to Kam who caught it in the endzone.
It was the only catch of Kam Babb’s college career. The sideline celebration with teammates lasted so long that OSU got a delay of game penalty, but they didn’t care. It was a special moment in Buckeye history. “I didn’t see him score,” Amanda smiled. “I had my face in my hands crying. It took a lot to get to that point.”
Kam Babb’s story is one of pain and perseverance. It is also one of courage and triumph. “It’s who you become in those difficult moments that really matters,” Kam says of his Ohio State football experience.