COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -Vernon Gholston isn't a player seething with anger and violence, who can't wait to stomp onto the field and cause bodily harm to anyone in a different-colored jersey.
No, what the Ohio State defensive end does on the field doesn't quite jibe with his measured demeanor.
``I go out there and try to play hard within the scheme of the defense,'' Gholston said. ``I try to play with my teammates and win games. That's most important to me. Whether I have 13 sacks or one sack, if we win every game I am happy.''
One of the most intimidating players in all of college football, the mere sight of the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Gholston is enough to send opposing players scurrying in the other direction. His upper arms appear about the same circumference as telephone poles and his body could have been chiseled out of granite.
His athletic ability and big numbers have attracted attention but Gholston remains as introspective and reasonable as anyone who has ever laced up cleats.
During the week of the Michigan game - a time when many of the more fervent Ohio State partisans reveal their blind enmity to the ``team up north'' - Gholston showed what sets him apart.
A reporter asked if he felt any particular hatred toward the Wolverines. Gholston was appalled, and not because he grew up in Michigan. He looked almost baffled that anyone would paint a football game in such dire terms.
Another questioner wondered if the defense had a chip on its shoulder after being shoved around the previous week in the Buckeyes' lone loss, at home to unranked Illinois.
``No, not really. We lost. That's the bottom line of it,'' he said evenly. ``You really can't think about that.''
Gholston also isn't much for recounting his impressive feats on the field. Heading into Ohio State's showdown for the national title against LSU on Monday night, he is tied with current New England Patriots star Mike Vrabel for the school record for most sacks in a season with 13.
The Big Ten's defensive lineman of the year and a second-team Associated Press All-American had four sacks against Wisconsin and three more in the Michigan game, playing his best against two of the best teams on the Buckeyes schedule.
``He's big, he's strong, he's fast,'' Michigan center Adam Kraus said after Gholston laid waste to the Wolverines' front wall. ``Put all of those together in a defensive end and he can wreak some havoc.''
Gholston totaled just 34 tackles for the Buckeyes but that number is misleading.
He had 14 1/2 tackles for minus yardage, and recovered a fumble and returned it 25 yards for his only collegiate touchdown. His presence also has a secondary effect.
He is double-teamed so often it opens the door for linebackers James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman,who combined for almost 200 tackles - to swoop in and dump ball carriers.
Gholston completely erased blockers in the Buckeyes' last game, helping set the stage for their 14-3 victory over Michigan. The Wolverines managed just eight first downs and 91 total yards against the Buckeyes. Yes, that's the same Michigan team that piled up 28 first downs and 524 yards in a 41-35 Capital One Bowl win over Florida on Tuesday.
Teammate and fellow lineman Doug Worthington glanced at Gholston recently, nodded in his direction and said, ``He's a beast.''
People are noticing. NFL draft pundits predict he could go in the first half of the first round if he decides to give up his final year of eligibility.
Gholston has filled out the paperwork to get an evaluation from NFL scouts. No one will be surprised if he elects to make the leap to the pros.
``Vernon Gholston is another guy that we wouldn't be here without,'' coach Jim Tressel said. ``His last two years have been outstanding. He's going to be a great football player. I think a lot of his football's ahead of him. He just keeps getting better and better all the time.''
The impending decision is a huge one for a 21-year-old who clearly enjoys being a college student, meeting people and playing a game that he didn't come to until he was a sophomore at Detroit's Cass Tech High School.
Asked about how difficult it is to not be overwhelmed by the decision, his answer reveals he may have already made up his mind.
``It's one of those situations that if you take care of business today, then tomorrow will be looking even brighter,'' he said. ``So you focus on what you're doing now, because football is football, whether it's at this level or the next level.
``You get better every day now, work hard now, get ready for the national championship - it'll also prepare you for what's to come later.''
Whatever comes later, Gholston is ready. No doubt he's already given it a lot of thought.

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