Taco Charlton's relationship with Ohio State is complicated, to say the least.
When the Cowboys' 2017 first-round pick was introduced to the cheering fans at Ford Center at The Star, he was asked who is favorite team was growing up. The grimace on his face suggested he wasn't exactly excited to answer the question, and that had something to do with the fact that the Cowboys' 2016 first-round pick, Ezekiel Elliot, was sitting next to him. There's no doubt he respects Elliott, but he didn't want to give him the satisfaction.
"Growing up in Columbus, Ohio State was like our pro team," Charlton finally said into the microphone.
Elliot was sporting a big grin.
Charlton attended the University of Michigan and Elliot went to Ohio State University, which means they were on opposite sides of the biggest rivalry in college football and some might say all of sports.
But Charlton grew up 15 minutes away from the Ohio State campus and everyone in Buckeye country doesn't have much of a choice in who they root for.
"My parents' house is scarlet and gray," said Taco's mother, Tamara.
The path was set for Elliott and Charlton to be college teammates, but there was one problem: Ohio State never held up their end of the deal. Somehow, his hometown team didn't see the potential in Charlton when he was in high school. A scholarship never materialized.
"[They] never offered [a scholarship]," Taco's father, Norm said, bluntly. "Never showed interest. Never showed love."
And if that wasn't bad enough, their dreaded rival showed interest as early as Charlton's junior year of high school. It feels good to be recruited by a big-time program and Taco started to think of Ohio State's loss as Michigan's gain. He was ready to consider the team he once rooted for as an enemy, much to his father's dismay.
"When he said, 'I want to commit to Michigan,' it was hard," Norm remembered. "We'd been Ohio State fans our whole lives. For two weeks it kind of bothered me, but I got over it knowing they showed [Taco] no love."
If it was difficult living with the betrayal of his childhood team, then Charlton certainly didn't show it in his time at Michigan. In his senior year, he beat up on the Buckeyes' offensive line and finished with 2.5 sacks.
On stage at Ford Center, Elliott was asked if Charlton ever tackled him in a game in college, and he didn't have much interest in trying to remember.
"I don't know," Elliott said.
But Charlton was happy to clarify.
"I actually did tackle him," Charlton said, sheepishly.
Norm Charlton also clarified that while they lived near a college town, if the NFL was on TV he was rooting for the Cowboys, and he tried to impress that fandom upon his son, who had a Cowboys' blanket in his room growing up.
Fortunately, Taco Charlton has sorted out his relationship with Ohio State; it's just a little complicated to track. Will sharing a locker room with Elliott be an issue? There's probably some room for banter, but in his introductory press conference, Charlton made it clear what he thought of his relationship with the Cowboys' running back.
"That was a rivalry in college, but now it's a brotherhood."