Northwestern’s Isaiah Bowser paints pocket of Buckeye Country purple

INDIANAPOLIS — Dylan Smith is split.

"I gotta support Isaiah and my school," Smith said at Saturday's Big Ten Championship Game Fan Fest in Indianapolis.

The Ohio State freshman is best friends with Northwestern star tailback Isaiah Bowser.

Smith and his family are a handful of the hundreds who made the two-hour trip from Sidney, Ohio, to watch the Northwestern Wildcats face the Ohio Buckeyes.

"The best outcome,” Smith said, "is I see Isaiah have a great game, but I want to see the Buckeyes win.”

C.J. Olding, 11, likes both schools, but he became a Cats fan as soon as Bowser put on purple. C.J.’s mother, Sara Olding, taught Bowser’s senior-year English class at Sidney High School.

For C.J.’s birthday last year, his mother asked Isiah and his classmates to play backyard football with her son. They stayed for two hours, playing in the cold.

"He's meant a lot to me," C.J. said of Bowser. "When he came to play football that was best day ever."

"Isaiah is the real deal," Sara Olding said. "His family is amazing. He loves little kids and loves to make people happy."

Bowser cemented his status in Sidney after a legendary senior season where he totaled more than 2,600 yards and 29 touchdowns, and helped the Sidney Yellowjackets reach the playoffs for only the second time.

To those who know him best, Bowser’s success at Northwestern is no surprise.

"I've played with him since pee wee,” Smith said, "and every game and league we played in, he dominated. So I'm not surprised at this because I know how hard he works and how important this stuff is to him."

But was there a chance Bowser, an Ohio native, could've been on the Buckeyes' sideline Saturday night?

"I was recruited by them a little bit," Bowser said of Ohio State earlier this week. "I went to a couple games. Obviously, everyone around me was Ohio State fans growing up."

Bowser did not get an offer from Ohio State. Would he have gone there if he did?

"I'm glad where I am now."