COLUMBUS — Justin Fields will have another season in an Ohio State uniform after all.
College football is better because of it.
Fields, the National QB1 (A or B with Trevor Lawrence) could have easily opted out when the Big Ten postponed football in early August, took a flight to somewhere nice and spent every day between now and the NFL draft training near the ocean. Instead, he chose to fight for college football.
He doesn’t need college football. The sport doesn’t need him, either. But it’s much better with the Heisman Trophy favorite on the field this fall.
Social media posts. Appearances on national television lobbying for a season. A petition that was signed more than a quarter-million times. Fields led the Ohio State charge for a fall season. His leadership has never been stronger than it is after the last five weeks.
He has proven to be a worthy face of the Big Ten — and college football.
“What can you say about Justin Fields?” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said Wednesday. “The way that he’s gone about his business, the way that he’s been a leader, the way that he’s spoken and been classy about it. His work ethic this offseason, if you ever get a chance to ask [strength] Coach Mick [Marotti] about it, it’s been off the charts. He’s changed his diet, he’s put extra work in.
“And then to see his leadership and the way he’s handled it, I can’t say enough about who he is.”
Who is he? One of the best quarterbacks in the country, the frontrunner to land the most coveted individual award in football and a captain for the preseason No. 2 team in the country. Fields has grown into a leader for the Buckeyes — on and off the field. A relentless competitor on the field and a fighter off the field. After transferring from Georgia one season into his playing career, he took Ohio State to the College Football Playoff. His love for Ohio State seemed to grow last year and get stronger this offseason.
It was apparent when he began the crusade to revive the Big Ten last month.
“Really just my love for the game, my love for college football,” Fields told ESPN Radio last month about why he was fighting for a season. “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.”
Fields didn’t single-handedly save the conference’s fall football season. But when the biggest superstar in the league speaks out, his voice matters. He organized players. He kept working for an October start to the year. And he didn’t stay silent for five weeks while the league presidents and commissioner did.
More importantly, he stayed with Ohio State, electing to fight over declaring for the draft.
Justin Fields will be back on the field at Ohio State this fall. He’ll win plenty of games on his way to another shot at the College Football Playoff.
And as long as No. 1 is playing for the Buckeyes, the sport is winning.