COLUMBUS — The voice of the players in the Big Ten plays quarterback at Ohio State.
Of course, they won’t be able to suit up this fall because of a canceled season. But Justin Fields, the Buckeyes and players from around the conference are learning to speak up. And Fields is leading the charge.
His petition calling for a reinstatement of a Big Ten college football season already has racked up nearly 250,000 signatures in the last two days. He has been outspoken about his desire to play, even though he needs another season in college less than every other player in the Big Ten.
Fields is on a mission to save the season for the conference.
“Really just my love for the game, my love for college football,” Fields told ESPN Radio on Monday morning about why he’s speaking out. “And it’s the love for my teammates and Ohio State. I’ve seen guys battle back from injuries and I’ve seen how hard our coaches have fought for us to play. Really just for them and my love for the game.”
Again, Fields doesn’t need this season. He’s going to be a highly-coveted prospect entering next spring’s NFL draft regardless. But he wants a season for so many reasons. And in the process of fighting for one, he has became the leader of a player’s movement in the league, finding his voice and growing into a true captain of the Big Ten’s flagship program at Ohio State.
It took college athletes years to realize they had a platform this massive. Fields might have the biggest platform in the entire sport. And he’s certainly using it to try salvaging a college football season in the fall, even after the postponement less than a week ago.
“We’re finally now realizing how big of a voice we have,” he said. “I think COVID and delaying the season and canceling the season — that hasn’t sat well on a lot of college football players around the country. This situation is not only making us realize that we have a voice in college football, but it’s also bringing us together in terms of making one voice and becoming more powerful together. That’s shown over the past few weeks or so.”
His issue with a lack of a college football season is warranted. The Big Ten released a schedule with built-in idle weeks to allow for canceled games and positive tests to run their course. And then less than a week after that, the conference pulled the plug on the season without letting it start.
Three other Power Five leagues, meanwhile, open training camps this week as they prepare for their seasons.
“If the SEC, the ACC and the Big 12 all think they can have a season safely, I don’t see any reason why the Big Ten couldn’t do the same,” Fields said. “What we’re doing at Ohio State is very safe, and if we can get everybody on the same track in the conference, I think that would be a safe way to actually conduct a season.”
It’s hard to argue with the logic coming from Fields. He and the rest of the Ohio State roster, among other various players around the conference, know there are ways to be safe and follow protocols. And the protocols have proven to be successful.
But that didn’t stop presidents from around the league and Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren from canceling the season anyways, without providing the evidence or grounds on which they decided to take that path.
Fields knows the plans in place at Ohio State could have led to a safe football season.
“I think COVID, you can contract it anywhere,” Fields said. “But me personally, I feel safer at the facility, around my teammates, knowing my teammates are going to get tested twice a week. That’s the safest environment for me and my teammates. I would have to argue that being at the facility for me and my teammates is safer than me just being out and about.”
Fields has his talking points and reasons for wanting to play. It seems so far, his cries for a season are falling on deaf ears.
As his petition gains more attention and he continues to find his voice as the leader of not just Ohio State, but also the rest of the Big Ten, the pressure is being applied.
Justin Fields is trying to save a college football season.