How an Ohio State team psychiatrist helped change Kirk Herbstreit’s college football career

Colin Gay, Columbus Dispatch

For Kirk Herbstreit, Ohio State football was his “everything.” 

A former five-star quarterback out of Centerville and a Buckeye legacy, Herbstreit remembers how others expected him to start for four years and win multiple Rose Bowls. 

But during an appearance on “The Mental Game Podcast,” Herbstreit, who is now a college football analyst for ESPN, admitted he had difficulty adapting to Ohio State as a freshman, and it was something that nearly led him to quitting football. However, he said the football team’s psychiatrist Alfred Ferrante helped turn Herbstreit’s mindset around. 

“Man, I struggled. I just could not deal with it,” Herbstreit said. “I had a really hard time adapting to it. I moved to defensive back, I was covering kickoffs and then I circled back to quarterback my last three years. And I was just at the end of the road. I was ready to quit.

“There was no NIL. There was no transfer portal. I was just ready to go play baseball and be done with football. And my dad was like, ‘Give it another spring.’ And then I ended up going to see this doctor. And I’m telling you, the courage it took in 1990-91 to go into his office, which was at Ohio Stadium – they gave him a little nook – I’ll never forget walking from my apartment, looking around my shoulder the entire time wondering if anybody saw me, knocking on his door and, even then, still kind of looking.

“Isn’t it crazy that you’re so afraid? I was like 20, 21 years old and I didn’t want people to make fun of me, just to be honest. I didn’t want people to think I was weak because of the way we were trained. But at least I had the courage to knock on his door.” 

Herbstreit said he didn’t know what to talk to the psychiatrist about initially, but that the first hour-long meeting was “incredible” and something that continued for the rest of his college career. 

“I really give him a lot of credit because I was (at) rock bottom to the point I wanted to quit all the way to the point where by the time I was a senior I was team MVP, I was voted most inspirational player, team captain,” Herbstreit said. 

“I wasn’t an All-American. I didn’t win a Heisman. The fact (is) … I was just a hard-working guy that came in with high expectations, hit the bottom of the roster and got back up to the top. Without him, without him listening and talking to me and helping me, I’m very doubtful I would have been able to do that.” 

Herbstreit became Ohio State’s starting quarterback in 1992. He led the Buckeyes to an 8-3-1 record and finished the season with a Citrus Bowl loss to Georgia. Herbstreit had 1,904 passing yards, four touchdowns and six interceptions.