Sousaphone player Timothy Hogue Jr. will become first from McKinley to receive honor when band performs 'Script Ohio' on Saturday.

When Ohio State University's marching band performs its signature "Script Ohio" on its home field for the first time this football season, the sousaphone player strutting to dot the “i” will be a Canton City Schools graduate.

Timothy Hogue Jr. is believed to be the first McKinley High School graduate to receive the distinctive honor.

Hogue, 23, will dot the “i” in “Ohio” Saturday during the band’s pregame performance the Buckeyes host the Oklahoma Sooners. A 2012 McKinley graduate, he also will dot the “i” during the Nov. 25 rivalry game versus the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium.

To understand the significance of the honor, consider this: Nearly half of the sousaphone players who auditioned this summer to be a part of the 140th edition of the Ohio State University Marching Band didn’t make the cut. Of the 28 sousaphones who did earn a spot on the band, only 24 perform on game day.

To be chosen as an “i” dotter — the person who completes the band’s signature "Script Ohio" tradition that spans 81 years — you have to be the cream of the crop consistently.

Started at McKinley

To understand how remarkable an achievement this is for Hogue, you need to go back to his freshman year at McKinley High School. He played trombone.

McKinley band director Robert Newman needed another tuba player to provide lower octave sounds. He asked Hogue to make the switch, knowing he possessed the skills and work ethic to master the instrument’s bigger mouthpiece and different fingerings.

Hogue, who had played only the trombone since fifth grade, didn’t argue.

“I just went for it,” he recalls. “The only thing I hated was my left shoulder hurt all the time for a while" from holding the heavier instrument.

After graduating from McKinley in 2012, Hogue chose to attend Ohio State, following in the footsteps of his older sister, Morgan Davis. He preferred Ohio State’s academic programs for security and intelligence over the other schools he visited.

And the possibility of playing with "The Best Damn Band In The Land" also was a major bonus, he said.

Making the band

Band auditions at Ohio State span two days and require candidates to stay sharp mentally and physically, as they are evaluated separately on music and marching. Roughly a third of those who try out for the 222-member band won’t make it.

Hogue auditioned for one of the band’s 28 spots for sousaphones, which is similar to the tuba but coils around the musician’s body with its bell pointing forward.

He failed to make the cut — twice.

“I definitely thought about not trying out again,” he recalled, “but then the summer rolled around and I kind of guilt-tripped myself into doing it again.”

Before his third tryout, Hogue bought a pass to the YMCA and began running, swimming and biking to build up his endurance to survive not only the grueling hours of band practice but also, he hoped, to survive on game days where he would be carrying a 35-pound sousaphone while wearing his full band uniform for a nonstop 20-minute pregame show and a 10-minute, fast-paced halftime performance.  

“Endurance is always one of the hardest parts for me at practice,” Hogue said. “Being able to make it to the end and still performing at a good level is difficult.”

The work paid off.

Hogue earned a spot in the marching band and was selected to perform on field for each home and away football game performance during his first, second and third years in the band – a feat few sousaphone players achieve.

Becoming a 'dotter'

To be eligible for the “i-dotter" status, a sousaphone player must be a fourth-year band member.

While Hogue graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in security and intelligence and a minor in Russian, he returned this summer to complete his fourth year in the band.

Because he had the most "Script Ohio" performances during his three previous years, Hogue was given first pick among the 12 regular-season games. He chose the home opener.

As of Saturday, Hogue planned to follow the traditional strut and bow involved with dotting the “i.”

Watching him at the Horseshoe will be nearly 90 of Hogue’s family and friends, including his high school band director.

Hogue’s family will be sporting personalized red Ohio State jerseys with “I-DOTTER DAD,” “I-DOTTER MOM” and “I-DOTTER SIS” in white letters and trim and the number 17 to represent 2017.

Hogue’s dad, Tim Hogue Sr., says Saturday’s performance represents countless hours of his son’s hard work.

“Just about any other kid after two times of trying out (and failing) would have given up,” Hogue Sr. said. “… It’s the perseverance that’s we’re proud of, that never-give-up attitude.”

Reach Kelli at 330-580-8339 or kelli.weir@cantonrep.com.

On Twitter: @kweirREP