Friday, June 25, 1993
June 25, 1993
By Bruce Hooley
Plain Dealer Reporter
COLUMBUS—He has inspired the cheers of a sold-out Ohio Stadium, matched wits with the scholars at Oxford and scanned the horizon from the deck of the guided missile cruiser USS Sterett.
Now, at age 28, Mike Lanese is ready for his latest adventure… enrollment in law school and the life that lies beyond.
Those who know Lanese, a 1982 Mayfield High School graduate and an academic All-American flanker at Ohio State in 1984 and 1985, see his enrollment in the OSU Law School during the fall semester as the latest step in a career plan aimed at high public office.
“I would not be surprised to some day have the chance to vote for him for representative, senator or governor,” said Jim Jones, Ohio State’s athletic director. “I think he would be an ideal candidate.”
Cleveland attorney Neil Cornrich, a friend of Lanese’s since high school, “can’t think of a better person to be a future senator from Ohio. Mike would be just perfect for that type of thing.”
Lanese doesn’t deny his fascination with the Statehouse and the White House, but for now, it is difficult for him to look beyond the poor house.
“It’s entirely safe to say I’m interested in that kind of thing, but first things first, I still haven’t paid off my Geo Storm,” said Lanese, a Navy lieutenant due for discharge in mid-July. “It would be pretty presumptuous and arrogant of me to say that in five or 10 years, I’ll be ready to run for political office.
“By no means am I prepared to even consider that right now, be it emotionally, intellectually, or financially. There are still a lot of hurdles I have to get through.”
A scan of Lanese’s resume does nothing to dispel the notion that his name will someday surface on the ballot.
Plenty of accomplished college athletes wind up in Washington. Witness retiring Supreme Court Justice Byron (Whizzer) White and Sens. Bill Bradley, Jack Kemp and Tom McMillen.
“It may appear, from the things that I’ve done, that I have a master plan for where my life is headed, but I really don’t,” Lanese said. “The common thread is education. I’ve selected things that look interesting. They are challenges that I think will give me a strong foundation, regardless of what I decide to do.”
Law school is the latest such experience for Lanese, who enters with no deeply ingrained interest in a legal career.
“I don’t have a particular aspect of the law I want to concentrate on, and there’s always the option of not practicing law at all,” Lanese said. “I say that to some people and they look at me like I’m nuts, but a law degree in and of itself is a flexible degree. It’s tremendous in terms of teaching you to read and write critically.”
An All-Ohio tailback at Mayfield in 1981, Lanese languished on the OSU bench for two years before becoming a starter in 1984.
Among his 41 receptions that season was a sprawling, twisting grab for 17 yards on the third-and-14 midway through the third quarter of the Michigan game. That catch helped the Buckeyes expand a 7-6 lead to a 21-6 victory and gain a berth in the Rose Bowl.
OSU hasn’t made that trip since, but Lanese has logged many miles.
He spent two years at Oxford after graduating from Ohio State, then gained his Naval commission after a pulled hamstring torpedoed a tryout with the Browns in 1988.
He has been home to Mayfield once since being assigned to the Sterett in September of 1989, spending nearly two years of active duty at Subic Bay in the Philippines.
“I’ve literally been hundreds of thousands of miles away in every way imaginable,” Lanese said. “I’ve tried to keep up with what Ohio State is doing or what the Browns are doing, but it’s pretty hard when you’re working 18-hour days.”
Jones first spotted that type of effort in Lanese at Ohio State, and the OSU athletic director is certain it will serve him well in the future.
“I have not doubt Mike will succeed at whatever he puts his mind to,” Jones said. “He was unique, in that he saw the big picture early on in his life. He knew where he wanted to go and used what was available to him to get there. He’s just a great young man.”