GREENVILLE — Buckeye superfan Larry Lokai, better known as the “OSU Buckeyeman,” will work his special magic to encourage everyone to be a “Buckeye Blood Donor” at the 24th annual Darke County OSU Alumni Club Tailgate Blood Drive, Tuesday, Nov. 14, from 12:30 to 6:30 p.m., in the Greenville Church of the Brethren, 421 Central Ave., Greenville.
The OSU Alumni Club will turn the Donor Cafe into a Buckeye “tailgate party” with special refreshments, including traditional chocolate and peanut butter “buckeyes” treats. Everyone who registers to donate will get a free “Buckeye Blood Donor” football T-shirt. Donors are encouraged to schedule an appointment online at www.DonorTime.com or call 1-800-388-GIVE.
The “OSU Buckeyeman” is a celebrity cheerleader seen often at nationally-televised Buckeye games in his trademark red face paint, wild scarlet-and-gray wig, and massive mane of Buckeye necklaces. Lokai is a faithful friend of the Darke County OSU Alumni Club and traditionally makes the rounds at the tailgate blood drive, crowning donors with necklaces and posing for pictures that he quickly posts to his Facebook page.
“I made 25 Buckeye necklaces for donors, staff or the volunteers — any Buckeye fan that wants one,” said Lokai. “I’ll be giving one away every 15 minutes.”
The CBC Buckeye Blood Donor campaign celebrates the football championship frenzy of late fall. The gray T-shirt features a scarlet and gray football helmet with the map of Ohio and the CBC blood drop as the helmet emblem.
It’s hard to believe that self-proclaimed OSU Buckeyeman Lokai has been the red-faced, crazy-haired super fan of Ohio State football since 1998 — long before social media and viral videos made instant fame easy.
Lokai said he has made more than 36,000 buckeye necklaces. He provides a buckeye for every freshman and new student at Ohio State. In 2013, he received national attention when he was honored for giving away one million buckeyes. He estimates the number has now passed 1.3 million.
Lokai’s love for Ohio State began in the classroom. He was the first in his family to get a college education when he graduated from Ohio State with a degree in agriculture in 1967. He received his master’s degree in 1973.
Now 26 members of his family have earned OSU degrees or are enrolled at OSU.
His “Buckeyeman” character was born in 1998 when Lokai and his son (OSU ’95) scored tickets to the Ohio State-Michigan game behind the Michigan bench. “I put on the jersey, wig and necklaces, and that was it,” he said.
The character took off in 2000 when he placed third in a Halls cough drops national scream-off to find the loudest college football fan. In August 2014, he was featured on the cover of USA Weekend, then cheered the Buckeyes all the way to the national championship. He won the 2015 national “What a Fan” award and received the OSU Agriculture Department’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2016.
Lokai taught agriculture business and science and served as FAA adviser for 22 years at Northwestern High School in Springfield. He lives in Urbana, where he served on the city council. He has visited county fairs across Ohio and the country to serve as a poultry judge and can expertly guess a bird’s weight by holding it in the palm of his hand.
He has about 100 buckeye trees on his property, from which he gets about 40 percent of the buckeyes he dries, drills and strings to make thousands of necklaces. Under a favorite buckeye tree is the grave site he has already chosen.
Asked if he would consider being laid to rest dressed as the Buckeyeman he said, “I would be OK with it. I’m not morbid about it. I already have my gravestone ready, and it has the Ohio State block ‘O’ on it.”