From football to farming
By Tracy Turner
COLUMBUS, Ohio–Cade Stover has a clear idea of what his life will look like once he graduates from The Ohio State University next year with a degree in agricultural systems management—playing professional football, owing a farm, and running it with his family.
The 6-foot-4, 255-pound starting tight end for The Ohio State University Buckeyes who is also a senior in The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), dreams of a successful career playing in the National Football League, and of also buying a plot of land in his hometown of Lexington, Ohio, five miles from the farm where his father Trevor Stover currently grows corn and alfalfa and raises cattle.
In fact, one of the first things Stover told his girlfriend of nearly two years when they first met is, “I want to farm, and I got to play ball.”
“That 500-acre farm is my dream farm,” Stover said. “The setting–it’s … almost indescribable to me, it’s just gorgeous. The barns are beautiful, the land, the rolling hills. It’s just everything that I could want for my farm in the future.”
“That 500-acre farm is my dream farm. The setting–it’s … almost indescribable to me, it’s just gorgeous. The barns are beautiful, the land, the rolling hills. It’s just everything that I could want for my farm in the future.”Cade Stover
And what a future.
Stover, who was Ohio’s Mr. Football, Ohio Gatorade Player of the Year, and a top-150 national recruit when he entered Ohio State, is now–in his 5th year playing for the Buckeyes. He’s now the fourth-ranked player in Ohio and the No. 130 overall prospect according to 247Sports.
During the 2022-23 football season, Stover had 36 receptions for 406 yards and 5 touchdowns. His receptions and yardage totals last year were the most by a Buckeye tight end in 28 years, and his touchdown total in 2022 was the most by a Buckeye tight end in 11 years. And during this years’ season opening game Sept. 2 against the Indiana Hoosiers, Stover was the Buckeye’s leading receiver, with five catches for 98 yards, back to playing football stronger and harder as ever.
This despite a hairline fracture of a small bone in his back Stover suffered during the Buckeyes’ College Football Playoff semifinal against Georgia in January. Undaunted, it was that injury, which prevented him from returning to the semifinal game, that propelled Stover to return to Ohio State to play one more year.
Stover credits his resolve to play football on his upbringing on his father’s farm.
“The work ethic from the farm translates tremendously to what I do on a football field day-to-day out there,” he said in a recent video. “I mean, the harder you work and the more stuff you put into, that’s what you’re going to get out of it. And I think that the farm really shows you that.”
He also credits his strength, his drive, and his determination to his dad, whom he said is his favorite person.
“If I could be the tenth of the person my dad is, I’d be doing just fine,” Stover said. “My dad and his brother own an excavating company down here in Columbus, and growing up, I watched my dad leave for his job at 5 a.m. in the morning and get home at 7 p.m. in the evening and then go out and farm after that.
“Watching his discipline and wanting to make it work so bad, that’s where I get my drive from.”
Stover said that he hopes that his platform as a buckeye and as a farmer can help increase awareness of farming as a career and could help persuade landowners to give young people a chance to get into the farming industry. He’s already got multiple Name Image and Likeness deals, including two in the agriculture industry–with Ag-Pro Companies, a privately-owned John Deere dealership, and Central Ohio Farmer’s Co-Op, an agricultural services company based in Marion, Ohio.
“I hope to be a role model for farmers,” he said. “It’s not very often that you see someone that does play football at a higher level and has (a farming) background. I just hope that having a platform of football will allow me to be able to branch out to lessen the disconnect” of what farming really is.
“If there are some young kids out there that really care about what’s going on and will do a really nice job of farming your land, for example, I hope that this raises some sort of awareness, that hey, give these kids a chance because it could change (their) lives.”
“Within CFAES, we focus on a “student first” philosophy. Our commitment to students leads to the highest student success metrics at OSU and keeps our talented young people like Cade here in the state of Ohio.”Cathann A. Kress, Ohio State’s vice president for agricultural administration and dean of CFAES
During his time in CFAES, Stover said he’s learned a lot more about agriculture and that his coursework in agricultural systems management has taught him to be more self-sufficient on the farm in terms of being able to do more of the day-to-day work himself that’s required to operate a farm, rather than having to hire out workers to do the job.
The CFAES Agricultural Systems Management major teaches students how to manage agricultural production and processing systems, including field production machinery, irrigation and drainage systems, processing equipment or commodity handling and storage facilities. Coursework includes classes in managing agricultural production, which includes machinery, building materials, electrical systems, irrigation and drainage, and business management. Other coursework includes a focus on modern technology such as metal fabrications, engine and power transmission, precision agriculture, fluid power, and agricultural safety.
Within CFAES, we focus on a “student first” philosophy, said Cathann A. Kress, Ohio State’s vice president for agricultural administration and dean of CFAES. “We are proud that our breadth and dedicated people ensure a Buckeye dream is a reality for anyone.
“Our commitment to students leads to the highest student success metrics at OSU and keeps our talented young people like Cade here in the state of Ohio.”
Stover said his plans for his future farm include raising cattle, farming row crops, and merging the farm with his father’s Stover Farms to increase the family farm’s total acreage, and so that he and his father could operate the farm together fulltime.
“We’re a small farm…my dad’s a first-generation guy, he’s done very, very well, for being a first generation. But compared to a lot of people, who farm 5000-6000 acres, it’s hard for us to get a start and to have that,” Stover said. “The day that I can (buy a farm and merge it with his father’s farm) will be the day that I really feel accomplished about myself.”
Advice Stover has for others, including himself, is to “enjoy where you’re at.”
“I’m always looking for the next move, to push up to the next rep, push up to a better position,” he said. “I just need to do a better job of being where my feet are and really enjoying what’s going on.”
While that enjoyment includes playing football, the time he’s spent at Ohio State, and all the places he’s been able to travel to, Stover said his favorite place is still on the farm.
“The most important thing to me in my life is this (farm) and my family,” he said. “It’s here where I was raised, it’s where I grew up. I think there’s some people that feel like they can’t wait to get out of where they grew up, but me, I mean, I can’t wait to get back to where I grew up.
“I don’t think anybody really understands unless you do farm, that this is really the purest form of life that you can get, in my opinion.”