Jon Peters gained national fame when he painted his face scarlet and gray at the 2003 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, when the Ohio State University Buckeyes defeated the University of Miami Hurricanes. But Peters, who OSU fans know best as “Mr. Big Nut,” decided to turn his celebrity into something more.

Using school spirit for good

Ever since Mr. Big Nut came to be, Peters, 53, and his wife Terese, 49, have passed out more than 1,000 necklaces every season with scarlet, gray and silver beads. Each necklace has bead blocks reading “OSU Nut” or “Big Nut,” and are handmade with the tens and thousands of buckeyes that the Peters gather with their grandsons every year. People have tried to buy the jewelry, but the Peters refuse payment.

That’s when the idea for the Big Nut Scholarship Foundation came about.

"My biggest thing is paying it forward and putting a smile on people’s faces,” Peters says. “I’m fine with being called a super-fan, but I’d like to be known as a super-humanitarian."

In 2011, they started the program, which awards seven $500 scholarships and counting to help students in Northwest Ohio fund their college education. It’s funded through golf outings, church events and appearances.

“It feels great,” says Peters, whose jitters subside when he presents the awards. “When you feel so strongly in your heart that what you’re doing is right, it’s easy to speak.”

Keeping the spirit alive during the game

Barring a death in the family, the Peters never miss an OSU game. They travel to away games from their hometown of Fremont, Ohio, and attend all the home games in Columbus. They attend one of the biggest tailgates in the nation (with 100 to 150 people, 15 tents and five TVs per game), and Terese paints Peters’ face.

They hand out the necklaces, sign autographs and take photos with fans. They watch their faces light up.

Giving back between plays

When they’re not cheering for the Buckeyes, the Peters throw birthday parties at nursing homes, and pass out stuffed dolls of Brutus, the OSU mascot, at children’s hospitals.

“My biggest thing is paying it forward and putting a smile on people’s faces,” Peters says. “I’m fine with being called a super-fan, but I’d like to be known as a super-humanitarian.”