COLUMBUS — Justin Fields doesn’t need to play another down at Ohio State.
He has already proven that he is among the best quarterbacks in college football. And he has already shown NFL scouts that he can make the throws needed to be a starter at the next level. He’s even shown an innate ability to lead a locker room upon entering.
So maybe that makes it even more powerful to see Fields stumping for college football alongside Trevor Lawrence and the biggest stars in the college game this season.
Fields doesn’t need to play. He wants to.
“There’s been too much work put in!! #WeWantToPlay,” Fields said Sunday evening on Twitter.
That message has been echoed across the college football landscape since rumors leaked out of Big Ten presidents and Power Five board meetings over the weekend. The players want to play. The suits hidden behind closed doors aren’t convinced they can pull a season off amid the worst global health crisis in a century.
The simple message put onto Twitter by Fields has been shared by other Buckeyes, coaches and even parents. It’s a clear consensus across the board — everyone at Ohio State is ready to start a season, even amid concerns with the virus. And they’re passionate about it.
“I feel pretty strongly about this, and if the question didn’t come up, then I was going to say it at the end anyway,” starting center and captain Josh Myers said during a teleconference last week. “I think my level of comfort in our safety is really high. There’s nothing more than our coaches and trainers and staff at Ohio State can do to keep us safe. I can’t say enough about what they’re doing, and I would say that my level of concern of safety is small — I’m not concerned.
“I personally am confident that we’re going to have a season, and I really wanted to say that with restaurants being open, bars open, other places that are open where people have the freedom to do the things they want to do — which really are probably minuscule in the importance of their lives — I just feel like if people our age can do those types of things, then I strongly feel like that if I want to, I should have the choice to play a college football season. I feel like it’s even a safer environment being around my teammates and in the facility and staying where it’s clean and safe. I think that’s a safer environment than being anywhere else and going to restaurants and things like that. So, I just wanted to voice my opinion on that. I strongly, strongly believe that. I have all the faith in the world in our coaches and trainers that they’ll keep us safe all the way through this thing.”
As power shifts in the sport and college athletes feel they have more of a voice than they ever have, the #WeWantToPlay movement on social media will be a test. The players understand the risk of playing in a pandemic and know the protocols Ohio State has been following inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. They want their collective voice to be heard.
The players signed off on playing. And the coaches certainly are ready to play. Even the parents, who have their son’s individual interest at heart before anything else, have voiced support for playing football.
“As parents, we strongly believe our sons want to play the upcoming season and have full trust the university and coaching staff along with the medical experts have found a safe way for that to occur,” Ohio State parents said in an open letter. “We believe this age group represents some of the healthiest individuals, while we recognize the risk cannot be eliminated, we believe the risk is minimal and the season can safely and responsibly occur.”
But are the walls within the meeting rooms that are well above the athletic department too thick to hear a cry for a season from nearly every angle?
They may be. The presidents of the Big Ten have been meeting — behind closed doors, of course — to come to a decision. It seems quite close to striking midnight on a college football season in the Big Ten.
One final plea from the biggest stars in the league may lead to nothing but a cancelation, anyways.
But if there’s one player in the Big Ten who can save a season, it’s Justin Fields. He’s proven he can do everything else. He’s ready to play another year for the Buckeyes. Not because he needs to.
He wants to play.