COLUMBUS — Justin Fields may not care about the conversation swirling around him, but Ohio State sure does.
The Buckeyes aren’t pleased one bit about the attacks on their record-setting quarterback, and they are intent on setting the record straight.
Doesn’t care about football?
That’s weird, why was he making petitions and going on television to get the Big Ten season reinstated when he could have simply opted out to prepare for the next level?
Last guy in, first guy out of the facility?
Must have been a different dude than the one who completely changed his diet, crushed the offseason workout circuit and was solidifying his captaincy for the Buckeyes with his leadership.
Struggled in a couple games?
Sure, the Indiana and Northwestern performances weren’t the best of his career. Is there a quarterback out there who never had any off days — let alone a Heisman Trophy finalist with two conference titles and only two career losses?
For whatever reason, Justin Fields appears to currently being held to a different standard than just about any other prospect in the country. And after the anonymous criticisms reached a new low attacking the Ohio State superstar this week, Ryan Day clearly had enough.
“Yeah, there’s a lot of talk out there, and I guess maybe they think they know him better than I do,” Day said after practice on Friday morning. “When I think of Justin Fields, I think of somebody who got off the field against Clemson and for the next year just grinded towards getting back to that same situation and winning that game. It started with the offseason. He got in here and he was one of the hardest workers in the weight room with Mick. Then it went to the quarantine, and during that time, [strength coach] Mick Marotti actually said that [Fields] inspired him. Justin Fields inspired Mick Marotti. He changed his diet. His work ethic was off the charts. He came in here in great shape. Then we get here and the preseason gets canceled, the season gets canceled. He doesn’t opt out and go to the NFL Draft. Some guys did.
“So, I’ve heard all kinds of different things, I don’t know what people have said and what they haven’t. I read stuff on my phone, I don’t quite understand any of that stuff. Love for football? There are a lot of guys who opted out. Are they saying the same things about those guys who didn’t want to play? Now, not only does he not opt out, he fights to get the season back. He has a petition, he goes on national TV and fights to get the season back. Then he comes out and plays — and plays really well.”
The win-loss record, his numbers, an overflowing individual trophy collection and a ridiculous Pro Day performance all speaks for itself. And if there are still questions about those two rougher outings on his resumé or an ability to work through his reads, Day has already been vocal about explaining those situations for anybody who asks.
Perhaps more than anything, that’s what has frustrated Day or quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis the most. If anybody wants accurate information about what Fields is really like in the facility, there is nobody who knows that any better than the Buckeyes.
From high above the field at the Superdome in January after Fields had taken a crushing, illegal hit to his back in the first half, Dennis could only shake his head outside of the coaching box before the third quarter. The straightforward evaluation: Warrior.
That’s the Fields who Ohio State knows, and they’re puzzled about the scouting reports suggesting otherwise.
“He had a couple bad plays in the Indiana game, but he overcomes the adversity,” Day said. “To me, if everything just goes smoothly, that’s a red flag because you’ve never gone through adversity before. He has been through adversity. He had to go through the transfer at Georgia. He had to come in and earn his way here. That game with Indiana was tough and the Northwestern game was kind of clunky, then it comes back in that [Sugar Bowl] and throws six touchdown passes, gets drilled in his back — most people would have begged out at that point. He didn’t. He comes back in a play later and throws a touchdown pass and goes on to complete the goal of what he set the year before to beat Clemson in that same game.
“All I know about Justin Fields is he’s been one of the hardest working guys, he’s one of the most competitively-tough guys and when he sets his mind to something, he gets it done. Whoever is going to draft Justin Fields is going to get a great player and a great person. When he sets his mind to something, he gets it done. I think the world of him, and I’m just upset that some people would say that about him. The crazy thing about Justin is that it doesn’t bother him. When I talked to him about it, he said: Let the people talk. He knows eventually somebody is going to draft him and he’ll have to go play. All the talk goes away and you just go prove it on the field. That’s what I have to say about that.”
The Buckeyes, obviously, were willing to put their evaluations definitively on the record.
Maybe that won’t end the conversation about Justin Fields, but those voices should clearly carry more weight in his defense.