COLUMBUS – Many students who attend Ohio State Football games have noticed that there are dedicated “super fans” at almost every event. These super fans come to the game, whether it’s raining, snowing, sleeting or hailing.
One particular super fan, the self-proclaimed Buckeyeman, actually has ties to the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).
Larry Lokai, better known as the Buckeyeman, is a CFAES alumnus, former adjunct professor and teacher, and poultry enthusiast.
From Ohio State student to teacher
Lokai was an undergraduate student at The Ohio State University in the CFAES from 1964 to 1967, receiving a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. In 1973, received his Master of Science. Both of his degrees are in agricultural education.
“I grew up on a dairy farm,” said Lokai. “Then I went to Ohio State and majored in agricultural education with a minor in animal science, and for the next 30 years, I was a teacher – an agricultural teacher.”
From 1967 to 1996, Lokai taught in Springfield, Ohio, at Northwestern Clark local schools; in Milan, Ohio, at EHOVE Career Center; and in LaGrange, Ohio, at Keystone local schools before retiring in 1996. Thus, began Lokai’s second career, post-retirement: poultry judge.
Larry Lokai: chicken man?
“I have been to 97 different shows across the country judging chickens,” said Lokai. “One of the things I do to tie Ohio into agriculture when judging the fairs is that every county fair that I judge, I take 30 buckeye necklaces. If you want to win a buckeye necklace, you have to win second place in your class and you win – not first, second. I give away a necklace to each one.”
Many 4-H’ers love having Lokai as a poultry judge. “Larry was by far my favorite poultry judge,” said Kady Davis, a second-year animal sciences student at Ohio State who previously had Lokai as a poultry judge. “Known as the Buckeyeman, he always brought buckeye necklaces and other fun things to pass out to the exhibitors. He is very interactive with everyone, but still does a great job judging. He definitely makes the shows fun and loves to stick around to answer any questions that anyone may have.”
“After retiring from teaching, I thought I was done with education,” said Lokai. “I moved back to Columbus and I thought well, this is kind of cool, just kind of relax. Next thing you know, I am doing adjunct work with the animal sciences department and for three years I coached the poultry judging team there at Ohio State.”
Becoming the “Buckeyeman”
In 1998, while working as an adjunct professor in the animal sciences department, Lokai became known as the Buckeyeman.
When asked why Lokai sports a red-painted face and buckeye necklaces, Lokai replied “It is very simple; I bleed scarlet and gray.
Lokai’s look is very distinct and recognizable, even in a sea of scarlet and gray at the Shoe.
“The red base was the first part of the makeup ,then the 13 gray stripes to symbolize 13 original colonies of the U.S. The necklaces weigh seven pounds, or the number of Heisman winners, and there are eight necklaces to represent the eight national football titles. For a while I add a buckeye each year we played the University of Michigan, but when I got up to 113 they got too heavy.”
Lokai is constantly updating his look to keep up with the ever-growing triumphs of the Buckeye team. He also like to keep his look original by personalizing it.
“Last year I reduced to four necklaces as I had all four of my children attending OSU one time or another,” said Lokai. “Since I was born in 1942, I now only string 42 nuts on four necklaces. Guess you could truly call my necklace a trace of OSU history.”
Lokai’s enthusiasm has been recognized nationally, having been awarded the NCAA Fan of Year in 2015 at the “What a Fan Awards.”
Lokai has impacted thousands of Ohio State fans and students over the years, having donated well over a million Buckeyes, 35,000 buckeye necklaces and over 1,200 buckeye seedlings. Lokai volunteers his time and talent as the Buckeyeman at student and alumni events, totaling over 100 days a year.
Giving back and embodying the Buckeye spirit is extremely important to Lokai: “People may forget what you said, people may forget what you did, but people never forget how you make them feel.”