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Buckeyes don’t claim Heisman Trophy, ceremony still huge win for program

Heisman Trophy-Joe Burrow-Justin Fields-Jalen Hurts-Chase Young
Ohio State had two Heisman Trophy finalists, and the winner is a Buckeyes graduate. (Austin Ward/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State Football

Buckeyes don’t claim Heisman Trophy, ceremony still huge win for program

NEW YORK — The bronze statue isn’t coming back to Ohio State, but silver linings were everywhere.

Even without a new Heisman Trophy for the Buckeyes, the ceremony itself was effectively a celebration of their program and more confirmation of the truly elite status it holds in college football.

There was a first-year starting quarterback decked out in a crisp, red suit talking about a debut season that only included one interception and an unbeaten record. At the end of a table at the Marriott Marquis was the most dominant defensive player in the country, sprinkling a little gray in with his scarlet jacket and admitting that earning Heisman Trophy votes was never on his long list of goals. Even with those two guys coming up short, an Ohio State graduate still claimed the most famous stiff-arming hardware in the sport.

The Buckeyes never made any effort to claim credit for what Joe Burrow has become at LSU. But the fact that he wasn’t ever able to win the starting job at Ohio State served as just another subtle reminder about just how rare the air is right now in Columbus. Justin Fields, Chase Young and the Buckeyes certainly don’t like losing at anything, but it was still relatively easy to find some victories for them on Saturday night.

“I think it’s a testimony to everybody at Ohio State and the coaching staff, how they develop players,” Young said. “I think it’s a testimony to them when you look back at your freshman year and to where you are a junior and what’s possible. Then Justin, he transferred in but you can still see how they developed him in the offseason.

Chase Young-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State defensive end Chase Young earned a spot in New York thanks to his 16.5 sacks. (Austin Ward/Lettermen Row)

“To have two Heisman finalists, that’s just a tribute to our coaches.”

Make no mistake: It’s also a reflection on just how special those two individuals are, their work ethic and an uncanny ability to perform on the highest stage. It’s hard enough to get one player to New York, let alone two — with a legitimate case that a third was worthy of consideration with running back J.K. Dobbins finishing in sixth place.

Yes, Burrow was the runaway winner and LSU will get to reap the benefits of that historic victory. But the televised ceremony still included highlights showing Burrow in an Ohio State uniform. Both sides of the football for the Buckeyes were featured for the program thanks to Young and Fields, the first time in Heisman history that one school had offensive and defensive representatives at the ceremony. And to top it all off, Ryan Day got to effectively cap the free recruiting commercial with an appearance in New York as well.

“I think everyone knows it’s tough to have two players from one school come here,” Fields said. “We know this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we’re just taking it all in right now.”

That’s obviously a one-time deal for Young. But for Fields, it might just be a taste of the Big Apple and a preview for what to expect next year.

The sophomore is still clearly getting better with every game of experience under his belt, which should be a scary thought since he was able to account for 50 touchdowns after only arriving at Ohio State back in January and going through a crash-course to learn Day’s system before his first career start to open the season. He’ll head into next year as the frontrunner to bring that Heisman Trophy back to Ohio State, and even going through the process of dealing with the crush of attention in Times Square will be a positive for him as the spotlight gets brighter.

Justin Fields-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Justin Fields was a Heisman Trophy finalist after his first year with Ohio State. (Austin Ward/Lettermen Row)

“I mean, coming here after getting to Columbus in January, I never would have thought I would be here,” Fields said. “Just seeing myself here right now, it’s a dream come true. It just goes to show you that everything happens for a reason, really. … I didn’t think it would happen, at least not this year. Next year? Maybe.

“But this is a blessing.”

The Buckeyes didn’t get to cap off the trip with a new piece of Heisman hardware to claim as their own. Honestly, they weren’t really expecting to given what appeared to be a foregone conclusion that Burrow would finish on top.

So, there was no disappointment in everything those two guys have accomplished for Ohio State this season without the trophy. There’s another one out there they can still win anyway — maybe even with Burrow having to compete directly against them on the field instead of a ballot.

“Everything is going to be fine, everything we want to accomplish in the future is still there,” Young said. “That [Heisman] is just something we can’t even worry about.

“Definitely going to enjoy this moment tonight. But tomorrow it’s go time.”

The conversation about bronze and silver is over for the Buckeyes. It’s time to chase gold, and in that respect, having two Heisman Trophy finalists is surely better than one.

Austin Ward

Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.