By now most Ohio State football fans know who Jon Peters is. The bigger-than-life face paint-wearing Ohio State superfan known as Big Nut has been gracing our television screens for over two decades. I’m willing to bet that about half of you who are reading this article have either met Big Nut or have even had your picture taken with the man who is known nationally as Ohio State’s number-one fan.
Big Nut’s real name is Jon Peters. A resident of Fremont, Ohio, Peters has been painting his face and traveling down State Route 23 to the Ohio State University campus for every home game and even travels to most away games if possible. He even painted his face for the spring game and was able to sit down with me for an interview at The OHIO Podcast listener appreciation tailgate that you can watch on YouTube.
I have had my picture with Big Nut several times but had never had the opportunity to ask him some questions that I have thought about for years until this past spring. Here are some things about Jon Peters you may not know.
1. When did Peters first become Big Nut?
Peters first painted his face and dressed up in Ohio State gear in 1995 at a Best Dressed Contest for a basket of cookies. As Paul explained, “Big Nut likes to eat.” The contest was at a Beat That Team Up North tailgate party through the Fremont Ross High School. Peters did this for seven years until 2002 when Peters traveled to Arizona for the National Championship game against Miami and decided to paint his face for the game.
Whatever magic Peters experienced while in Tempe, Arizona during that week and game, it stuck with him after traveling back to Ohio. “That was a great victory and the best game I have ever seen to this day,” Peters reminisced. “I’m getting Buckeye-bumps just thinking about it.”
Whether it was superstition or just wanting to relive that moment, Peters started painting his face for Buckeye games from that moment on.
2. How did Peters get the name Big Nut
One of the things you learn about Big Nut when you get to know him is that he is just a big fan like all of us. So much so that he even gets angry from time to time.
“First Lady Nut (Big Nuts’ wife) would call me Big Nut because I would get angry at the tv set and throw my foam brick at it and stuff like that,” Peters explained. “She would say, ‘Oh, quit acting like a Big Nut.’”
The name stuck and as Peters became more and more recognized over the years, so did the name.
“I love the name Big Nut because I feel it exemplifies so many people in Buckeye Nation,” Peters said. “Let’s face it, we are all a big nut about Ohio State.”
Three more facts about Big Nut
3. Contrary to popular belief, Peters is not employed by the Ohio State University or the athletic department. In fact, Peters has never received one single red cent from the University for all his face painting, loud cheering, or good publicity he has brought to the University as a representative of Buckeye Nation. In fact, Peters isn’t even given a break when it comes to his ticket prices.
“Paint makes me look young, but I am at retirement age right now,” Peters admits. “First Lady Nut will not let me retire until I decide to quit going to Buckeye games because we can’t afford to retire because tickets aren’t cheap. This is what we enjoy doing. I work at Whirlpool Corporation. I’m a factory guy who has been there for 42 years. I couldn’t do this without First Lady Nut and her good-paying job as a physical therapist.”
4. He is one of the most giving people I have ever met.
I can’t tell you how many times I have seen Big Nut stop to take a picture with someone and have a quick conversation with them. I once sat outside of Lucas Oil Stadium before the Big Ten Championship Game and watched Big Nut interact with Buckeye Nation for over an hour. Not once did he have a moment to himself, but he patiently gave every fan their moment. But Peters does more than just smile for the camera and take selfies with Buckeye Nation.
“We started a pay it forward program many years ago in 2011,” Peters said. “Since then, we have raised over $250,000. We have an endowment here at the Ohio State University. We also have an endowment in Sandusky County with the Community Foundation where an Ohio State scholarship is given out locally to 11 high school seniors in nine different high schools at $500 each. It’s our way of paying forward and our way of giving something to someone for nothing at all.”
Before Big Nut was handing out scholarships, he was handing out Buckeye necklaces, which he still does even now. “We want to give away something to someone for nothing, for no other reason than just to put a smile on a face.”
5. What does Peters love most about being Big Nut
“The smiles on the kids (faces) and even the grown adults, how they get all excited,” Peters stated when asked about what he loves about being Nig Nut. “In the Horseshoe on gameday, when you have over 100,000 Buckeye fans individually with their own personalities, but they are all there for one common goal of winning that game and rooting our Buckeyes on to victory, they come together as one. It’s just amazing. You can take a handful of buckeyes, lay them in your hand, and each buckeye looks different. They are all different in their own unique way. But when we come together on gameday we are all one.”
If there is one thing about Peters that you learn after spending time with him, it’s his contagious energy. He makes you feel like you are a part of something bigger. And you are. You’re a part of one of the largest, and most vocal fanbases in all of college football.
“There is not a greater nation than Buckeye Nation,” Peters said. “They are special. It’s not what you take with you when you leave this world, but what you leave behind and we’re trying to leave something behind for other people.”