Ohio State prof builds epic Lego stadium

Updated: January 19, 2011, 2:15 PM ET
By Alex Prewitt | Special to Page 2

Ohio State LegoCourtesy of Paul JanssenPaul Janssen's to-scale replica of Ohio Stadium took more than two years to build.

Paul Janssen is 42 years old. He's an associate professor of physiology and cell biology and an associate professor in cardiovascular medicine at Ohio State University. He holds a Ph.D.

And he loves playing with Legos.

"People who haven't seen the Lego models built don't know what it takes, and they easily dismiss it," Janssen said. "But it's not playing anymore; it's using it as an art medium. I've seen many people who think it's a nerdy hobby, but I haven't met anyone who, once they've seen it, still holds that view."

Janssen began playing with Legos when he was around 4 but stopped once he got to middle school -- plastic bricks took a back seat to soccer and girls. Years later, however, he took his old toys out to play with his son, and it snowballed into a hobby.

This continued love for the toy propelled Janssen to construct a to-scale replica of the Buckeyes' famed Ohio Stadium ... entirely out of Legos. It took him four years to collect the pieces and more than 1,000 hours to actually build the horseshoe-shaped stadium -- a difficult task given the rectangular shape of the bricks -- but Janssen has finally completed his Lego magnum opus.

"The stadium is such an iconic venue that when I saw this, and I was already building trains and skyscrapers at that time, a couple of friends and colleagues said that would be cool," he said of the stadium, which was built to 1:120 scale in his basement, typically between 5 and 9 a.m. before his family woke up. "People thought I wouldn't do it, but I guess I'm nuts enough to actually do it."

After posting pictures of his completed project online, national media outlets caught on to Janssen's epic structure, which can fit 6,000 Lego Ohio State fans and splits into 10 sections, each weighing up to 50 pounds. The attention caught Janssen off-guard.

"They've reported on some of my creations in the past but usually it ends up on page 10 or page five," said Janssen of the story in the Columbus Dispatch. "It must've been a relatively slow news day because it ended up on the front page. I absolutely did not expect it."

Though many might scoff at the notion of a professor playing with Legos in his spare time, Janssen insists that his replica falls into the "you-must-see-it-to-believe-it" category.

"I've had TV crews and newspapers come to my house and virtually all of them stop and are in awe once they see it," he said. "When you see it, it really takes it to the next level. I've yet to meet the first person who wasn't impressed."

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Alex Prewitt

ESPN Playbook
Alex Prewitt is a contributor to ESPN Playbook.