By Matt Reese
A farm boy turned football star had a great season for the Ohio State Buckeyes and a big win for Ohio’s beef producers.
Stover grew up on a cattle and grain operation working with his family. He developed a strong work ethic there and paired it with his athletic ability for great success in the last couple of years.
“I grew up in Lexington, Ohio, running feeder calves up there. We sell freezer beef to local people and have a small row crop operation. Growing up and watching my dad work really inspired me to do what I can do today. I like all parts of it. I like the cattle, I like the crops and I really like the big equipment,” Stover said. “I love playing football and I love farming, but I loved farming before I knew what a football was, so I guess you could say I loved farming first. Now I am able to play and use my talents that God gave me to put myself in a situation to be able to farm. That has really been a goal of mine since I can remember what goals were. If I can do that we’ll be in good shape.”
In his early years at Ohio State, 6-foot 4-inch, 225-pound Stover showed great promise at multiple positions. By 2022, he was set do big things at the tight end position. Stover was named a team captain heading into the 2022-23 season and caught 36 passes for 406 yards and five touchdowns in 13 games for the Buckeyes. Stover had the most receptions at the tight end position for OSU since 1997.
Stover was taken to the hospital with back spasms early in the Peach Bowl against Georgia with national title hopes on the line. The last second loss in the game was heartbreaking, but he was able to travel home with the team after being released from the hospital.
“That’s life. You sign up to fail sometimes. You sign to make mistakes. It just didn’t go our way that time and you put your head back down and try to do it again,” Stover said about the season-ending Peach Bowl loss.
He has announced his intentions to return to OSU to play again next year and continue pursuing his degree at OSU’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
“For me it’s just what’s going to set me up best to have my dream farm one day. What’s going to financially be the right decision? Because as much as you want to make a decision based on your heart, you can’t do it at this point,” he said. “For me, it just made more sense to come back and develop myself more to hopefully put myself in better spot this time next year. First, our No. 1 goal is beating the team up north, win the Big 10 and win a national title. For my personal goals, I want to be the best in country, win a Mackey and be the first All-American here in a long time.”
In June of 2021, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed an executive order permitting student-athletes in Ohio to earn compensation from the use of their name, image and likeness (NIL). The order became effective July 1, 2021. The order, paired with Stover’s love for his family farm and great success at football, set the stage for Stover to connect with a massive audience about Ohio agriculture.
“It’s given me more of a platform opportunity to really close the gap of the disconnect between what people think it is like and what it’s really like in agriculture,” he said. “We make the school a lot of money and, before these new opportunities to make money outside of our football program, we really didn’t see much from it. Now with NIL, we are able to go out here and support local businesses and help promote them just by using our face and name. Also, by helping us, it all works out for everybody and people can make a lot of connections that they wouldn’t have the opportunity to without it.”
Stover has done some work with Ag-Pro and, heading into this season, he was able to showcase Ohio agriculture on a very large scale with the Ohio Beef Council.
“For a while now, the Ohio Beef Council has done a series of videos. We call them Ohio Stories and we’ve done them for a number of years,” said Elizabeth Harsh, executive director of the Ohio Beef Council. “It’s about putting a face on the industry and really connecting with consumers to show the passion and show how Ohio beef farm families are more alike Ohio’s beef consumers than they are different.”
The Ohio Stories puts faces with agricultural production on the Internet and social media.
“We actually do a national buy,” Harsh said. “We do a Google search and YouTube campaign as well as Spotify and some things like that with checkoff dollars. We use geo-targeted marketing to identify the consumers that are on those different platforms and we can showcase all of those videos and really get great connections there.”
The video series has translated into hundreds of thousands of Ohio farm connections around the country from non-farmers interested in learning more about where their beef comes from. Then with the NIL executive order and Stover’s success on the football field at Ohio State, the opportunity arose to take Ohio Stories to another level.
“Back in 2021, we were able to start some conversations and have the idea of working with Ohio State Buckeye football great Cade Stover. We started talking to him and actually shot an Ohio Stories video with him in early summer in 2022. We talked about his goals after football and they were all about farming. He is looking to take advantage of opportunities to be able to someday have the farm with the cattle and the crops that he was envisioning. It was a great fit to be able to showcase how the work ethic he developed on the farm working with his family really translated into success on the football field. We knew we had a winner when we started,” Harsh said. “We were working last summer to get the video ready as we were approaching football season. We were pleased to see Cade named one of the team captains and we were able to roll that out before the start of the season. It had tremendous viewer numbers right there before the first game with Notre Dame. His passion for farming really showed through and he delivered that message perfectly on target, so it couldn’t have been more successful. It translated into carrying a really tremendous message that resonated with so many different folks — young people across the state that are involved in athletics and also those on a farm could see themselves and really identify with that video. It was shared so many different times and actually even picked up on an ESPN broadcast of one of the football games.”
On YouTube, video views topped 150,000 and on Facebook the video views neared 200,000. ESPN broadcasts reach several million during an OSU football game.
Off the field, Stover is continuing to work with Ohio agriculture and the Ohio Beef Council. This weekend he will serve as the celebrity judge for the Celebrity Showdown at the Clark County Cattle Battle.
“I think Cade is receptive to working with us some more. Case in point, he actually is serving as the celebrity judge this Friday evening for the Celebrity Showdown we’re hosting in conjunction with the Cattle Battle. That’s where all the young people in the BEST program, if they raise a minimum of $100, can participate and dress up their animal and parade in front of Cade as the celebrity judge. It’s all about raising money for the Ronald McDonald House here in central Ohio. That’s this Friday evening on Jan. 20, so he’s continuing to make those connections and help us do good for other things that are important to all of us,” Harsh said. “The video we did with Cade was a tremendous success and it capitalized on a lot of passion around the state of Ohio and the success of all the videos that we have done featuring farm families. I guess for us that was touchdown times 10.”
Check out all of the Ohio Stories at https://www.youtube.com/@OhioBeefCouncil/videos.