Adam Prescott: 2001-2002
For as long as he could remember, Adam Prescott had loved sports and competition of all kinds. He was highly influenced by his older brother, Brad, who was a high school athlete and avid sports fan. Going to his brother’s high school basketball games and seeing pictures in the trophy cases of the great Elyria Athletes of the past, (including Vic Janowitz, star Elyria football and baseball player and Ohio State Heisman Trophy winner) made the Elyria athletes seem like stars to young Prescott who looked up to his brother as the determining factor in what was “cool” or not. That love for sports created a dream in Prescott to be a college athlete. In high school he played soccer and baseball with some success, but also found during his sophomore year that the Elyria High School marching band provided a chance to be a part of something with a great tradition as well.
The interest in marching band took a major jump for Prescott when Cory Thompson decided to take his talents to Ohio State and began working with a former OSU Drum Major squad (D-row) member Tim Williams between the Fall of his senior year in high school and freshman Fall of college. Williams, who was mostly self-taught, made D-row for one season before deciding to go another direction with his talent. However, the one year of D-row taught him enough to be helpful in Cory Thompson’s transition from high school Drum Majoring to college.
While Thompson worked on ascending at OSU, Williams and Doug Benford, Elyria High School’s marching band director, continued to develop the Elyria Drum Majors. Prescott watched Matt Bally, with the pipeline to OSU now open, take to his training with intensity. The teaching of Williams and Benford, along with a fellow Drum Major student, Scott Sommer of Avon Lake, propelled Bally to take the Elyria position to new heights.
At the close of Bally’s senior year in High School, Cory Thompson was seen on national television at the Rose Bowl by Matt Bally’s soon to be successor, Prescott. The game inspired an intense passion for band and Drum Majoring in Prescott. However, it wasn’t until a month later that he knew how important that game would be to his life, for he was selected to replace Bally.
Bally, having surpassed the twirling ability of Williams and Benford, was given the majority of the responsibility for teaching the skills of drum majoring to Prescott. Benford let Bally go to work and would assist mostly with leadership and character training for Prescott to be ready to lead the largest marching band in EHS history (approx. 200 members).
Bally graduated and was on his way to becoming OSU Drum Major in 1999 and 2000 while Prescott worked
tremendously hard to live up to the expectations placed upon one following great leaders.
Bally and Thompson watched over Prescott with a careful eye and never turned down his requests for help. He was always known as ‘the hardest working guy’ on every team he was on, but drum majoring became an intense passion for him. “My older brother used to drive up from Columbus where he worked to watch most of my games and my Mom could be heard by most of the stadium yelling ‘Catch It! Catch It, Catch It!’ My Mom’s pride in Elyria High had been bred in me from a young age and my brother set a good example of character for me to follow.” Prescott said. The Elyria Band received a standing ovation at every football game and band show during Prescott’s career. “I felt so proud that I was in an integral position in such a great group with so much history” he said. He finally got his picture in the Elyria High School trophy case as he had dreamed when he was boy, but as the Drum Major. He had met the expectations placed upon him and exceeded them, but he felt that his biggest accomplishment as a Drum Major would have to be on the biggest stage a Drum Major can have, leading The Best Damn Band In The Land. This idea had been echoed by former OSU Drum Major, Greg Eyer who recruited Adam out of high school to try to be the ‘Man up Front’ for the OSUMB.
The help of Eyer combined with the day-to-day leadership of Bally and Sommer allowed Prescott to develop quickly. He continued year- round training as he did in Elyria, but with even more intensity. His normal practice was around 4 hours a day and included twirling, strutting, gymnastics, weightlifting, and cardio machines at Larkins Hall.
At his first OSU tryout he squared-off against mentor and incumbent Drum Major Matt Bally, 1998 Drum Major Scott Sommer, and four others. His improvement was obvious, but it wasn’t enough to knock off Bally and he became the Assistant Drum Major for the 2000 season. “I was shooting for the Head spot, but I told myself that I would be happy as long as I became at least Assistant, but that was no easy task with the very tough competition I was facing. Being assistant to Matt turned out to be tremendously helpful to my development.”
The season was great fun and was capped when Bally and Prescott led the band in The Inaugural Parade for George W. Bush, but one of Prescott’s fondest memories is of the home game against Penn State. Prescott was scheduled to replace Bally as the Drum Major during the Pre-game show after Bally was suspended for taking the “Three Knocks” tradition of hitting the garage door next to the ramp a little too far. The tradition had formerly been carried out on one particular panel of a wooden garage door, but the stadium renovation project had replaced the wooden door with a metal one. The facilities managers were not pleased when they found that JI-row had broken the lock on the ramp gate in order to carry out their traditional ramp practice that morning or to find the dent left by Bally in their new door all on the same game day. So Prescott was scheduled to take over the DM spot for Pre-game until one of the largest rainstorms in memory swept through Columbus and forced Pre-game to be cancelled for the first time in many years or possibly ever. Needless to say, Prescott was not happy to learn at the very end of skull session that he would not get the chance to do the ramp.
The band was not allowed onto the field for Pre-game, but they played the entire Pre-game show music from their seats in the stands. The band began with Le Regiment and Prescott soon realized that he was not the only who was going to miss out on his big day, so was I-dotter, Steve Sinfield. In order to make the most of the situation at hand, Prescott pulled Sinfield out of the stands and brought him down to the back of the North end-zone where they proceeded to carry out the I-dot on the I in OHIO STATE painted onto the end-zone grass. The crowd erupted into one of the loudest ovations ever heard in Ohio Stadium and Prescott returned with Sinfield to the band’s seats in the stands only to find the entire sousaphone section teary eyed. “I always felt really good about doing that for Steve although I didn’t realize we were doing anything special until it was over” Prescott said. His thoughtfulness was rewarded when the band was allowed to perform the entire pre-game show at post-game instead, giving Prescott his chance to do the ramp as the Assistant. For the next season, Prescott had a special ‘3 knocks plate’ made to keep the tradition alive and the facilities managers happy. “My first ramp was strange because it was not only when I was the Assistant, but it was during post-game. I enjoyed it and it just wetted my appetite for winning the top spot even more.”
With the experience of a full year as Assistant under his belt and Sommer and Bally retired from the OSU Drum Major ranks, Prescott came into the 2001 tryout with confidence. “I knew that I was the most experienced of all of the competitors and that I had outworked all of them as well.” The work paid off as Prescott was named the Head Drum Major for the 2001 season to be assisted by Scott Sommer’s younger brother, Eric Sommer.
“The most memorable moment of my first year was the ‘Patriotic Show’ in the final home game vs. Illinois. September 11th had just happened and I don’t think there is a better college band to lead in a patriotic show than the OSUMB. We closed with ‘God Bless America’ and the whole stadium was on their feet singing with patriotism echoing though-out the historic columns of the ‘Shoe’. For the end of the song, the band made a star formation around me as a huge American flag was unwound. The band hit that note with such force and deepness and I raised my arms to the sky in order to present the band to the crowd and become a focal point to absorb all of the energy the cheering crowd wanted to give back to the band. I felt that it was the band’s way of speaking for the University and all of Ohio in saying that we were sad about what happened, but we are proud and will stand strong.”
“For as long as I had known what a Drum Major was, if someone knew of only one Drum Major, they knew of Dwight Hudson. When I had finalized my decision to go to OSU my senior year in high school, I put a picture of Dwight in my locker and wrote ‘I will be the best.’ It gave me a huge goal to go after.” Adam’s brother moved to California to start a new job during Adam’s Assistant year and Adam went to visit him immediately after school let out that spring. Coincidentally, Dwight lived near Adam’s brother and he had the opportunity to meet up with him and twirl for a couple of hours. “My baton broke and I didn’t do that well when we were practicing, but I learned so much by talking directly to the source. His Assistant, Oliver McGee would begin mentoring me on some of the finer philosophical points of Drum Majoring and life towards the end of my first season. I had learned so much from Matt, Scott, and Greg, but Oliver and Dwight helped me understand the final parts psychologically of what I was trying to do. This led me to have a great second year as Drum Major.”
The workout regiment continued and Prescott claimed the Head Drum Major spot again, this time with a new Assistant, Kathryn Mitchell. He managed to have a great performance on tryout day and to receive multiple perfect scores on his judging sheets despite a broken finger on his right twirling hand. Prescott said, “The Michigan Drum Major had come to watch our tryout. We were introduced and he told me that he was ‘amazed’ at what I had done in the tryout. Knowing that he was trying to come down to Columbus to take some of our tricks back to that State up North, I thanked him and then informed him that he only saw the toned-down routine due to my broken finger. I never really worried too much about any competition between the Michigan Drum Major and our Drum Major, but I had the chance to win one for the home team so I took it. I never even mentioned anything about the fact that the Michigan Drum Major has been known to lead their band with a Gray Baton engraved ‘Go Bucks Beat Blue!”
When the season rolled around, Bally’s energy, speed, and tricks could be seen in Prescott, but with a little different twist that the crowd seemed to appreciate. “I tried to have an overall great ramp and when I was twirling I tried to have Matt Bally speed, Scott Sommer’s refined look, Greg Eyer’s twirling skill, the timing of Dwight Hudson, the leadership and teaching skills of Mr. Benford, and to put my own spin on putting it all together” Prescott philosophized. The style was one all of his own by the time the 2002 season started.
Prescott added more gymnastics than any previous OSU Drum Major including multiple handsprings and a high-toss back handspring to go along with a plethora of cartwheels and jumping catches. He also developed some magical baton tricks with a fellow band member and professional magician, JI-row squad leader Michael Kent. “I could get the baton to float around me and fireballs to come out my hands. It added just enough to make the crowd look in really close. Once I got them leaning in to see more I would break out the big tricks with the gymnastics and the speed and the crowd couldn’t get enough” said Prescott. He routinely received standing ovations from the whole arena at skull session. McGee later told him, “You did it!, I haven’t seen that kind of response from the crowd for anyone since Dwight.”
While all the performing was going on, Prescott was working on getting the Drum Major position a scholarship. When Prescott had come to OSU, there was no scholarship directly tied to the Drum Major, but by the time he left the Head Drum Major received full in-state tuition and the Assistant received around ½ tuition. Greg Eyer, Shelley Graf, and OSUMB alumni Pete Boriin were very helpful in the push for the scholarship, which at the time of this printing, is one of the largest Drum Major or twirling scholarships in the nation. It didn’t stop there, Prescott founded the Drum Major/Twirling Club at Ohio State University in order to give high school students and the up-and-coming D-row members guaranteed facilities in which to practice along with funds to help with extra training. He also created a large recruiting and training program (“The Drum Major Training Program at Ohio State University”) for high school students that more than tripled the candidate pool.
As the momentum of the 2002 season went on, band fans and alumni clubs around Ohio began to push to have the traditional two-year rule waived for Prescott. Greg Eyer had been the ear for all of the supporters preparing to back Prescott if he wanted to come back for a third season as Head Drum Major. “Greg asked me if I would come back for another year if the band opened it up for me. I never pushed for it at all. Oliver McGee had told me to just soak up and enjoy as much as I could while I was in the position so that I never had regrets. So I told Greg that I would approach the remainder of the season as if it were my last and then decide after the bowl game whether I wanted to come back for a third year” said Prescott. “I told him to keep it quiet for now because Dwight Hudson had told me that after his second year he would wake up to hear WOSU radio discussing whether or not he should be allowed to do another season. I didn’t want to put the band in a bad spot or anything, but I was interested, so I just told Greg half-jokingly that I would probably come back… unless I win the MIB and we go to the National Championship and the band gets a standing ovation at halftime. (laughing) I said it because that was my dream scenario, but I didn’t really think it would happen!”
The band did award Prescott with the Most Inspirational Bandperson award and went to Fiesta Bowl to win the National Championship in one of the most memorable games of all-time. “I had a badly pulled hamstring that week which made it hard to walk and march let alone strut and do flips, but I took a bunch of Advil and spent a lot of time with our great trainer, Pam Bork.” Prescott had a sensational week of performing despite being in pain the whole time and it concluded with a standing ovation for the band’s halftime just as he had dreamed. “I came off the field and I saw Greg who treated me like family since the day he first met me at the OSU Drum Major camp when I was in high school and he had tears in his eyes. He just looked at me and said ‘you’re done, aren’t you?’ I just smiled at him and thanked him for all he had done to help me get to my dream.”
The team won the game in triple overtime. “I will never forget hearing the O-H-I-O! overpowering everything across the desert when the band played “Hang On Sloopy.” I distinctly remember looking up into the air at the baton as I tossed it and thinking to myself that it was the most amazing crowd I have ever experience and then instantaneously reminding myself that I need to focus on catching the baton and not the crowd. Every crowd has personality and the Fiesta Bowl Crowd, which was 99% Ohio State Fans made the 60,000 or so voices sound louder than any I had ever heard. There were thousands of flashes from camera as we went to the top of the I to dot it. The National Championship game changed me forever. The entire season was like something out of dream. The fans and the atmosphere surrounding the game carried an energy that was so inspiring that I get all caught up in it again every time I think back to it. The day of the Fiesta Bowl was the greatest day of my life up to that point in my life. My entire level of expectation for something to invigorate my passions had been raised tremendously. Oliver McGee and I often talked about the “zone” or being “asleep” or spiritual when everything clicked just right on the field. I had that feeling many times when I was Drum Major, but the National Championship is something that will always be enshrined in my heart as one of my favorite experiences. Everyone in the stadium just wanted the moment to last as long as possible. I didn’t take time to worry about whether it was my last game or not, I just ‘soaked it all up’ like Oliver McGee had told me to do. My career was capped by Coach Tressel accepting the National Championship trophy on ABC by saying ‘We’ve always had The Best Damn Band In The Land……………, now we’ve got The Best Damn Team In The Land!!”
Prescott’s career was supposed to be all over following the Fiesta Bowl, but the band was recruited to do a ramp entrance and Script Ohio in the Horseshoe for the National Championship celebration. “With my hamstring still healing, I did the ramp and the script in the frigid cold on a snow covered field. I thought it was sort of fitting to do a last ramp after the season in the snow because my first ramp had occurred my Assistant year in the strange setting of the Penn State post-game following a huge rainstorm. We did the script and I had the chance to dot the I with all of the football team seniors that had made such a memorable season happen. The beginning and the end of my Drum Major career had some rough weather, but I can’t complain too much because the middle was filled with a lot of sunshine!”