Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and former Buckeye quarterback Justin Fields met with reporters today to discuss Fields’ selection in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. Here are the highlights of everything that was said.
— One of the most important traits for a quarterback in the NFL is overcoming adversity and Justin Fields has done that. He overcame a couple of rough performances against Indiana and Northwestern and played the way he did against Clemson. He’s had adversity in transferring and then coming to a new locker room at Ohio State. He’s had pressure and expectations everywhere and handled it great at Ohio State.
— Justin burns hot on the inside but you can’t always see it on the outside because he keeps it close to the vest. He gets motivated quickly and gets competitive quickly.
— Fields is very, very athletic and is big and strong, but he was very comfortable in OSU’s NFL offense. He was comfortable in the football classroom with route structures and is able to change things in-game. There was a play against Clemson that they didn’t even run that week in practice and he can handle that stuff. He became more comfortable in the pocket in his time at OSU as well.
— The Indiana and Northwestern games were examples of Justin Fields just trying to force some things and learning from his failings. He’s proven he can do that now.
— Fields is plenty tough and has only missed a couple of plays. Then when he returned from those missed plays he made big plays almost immediately. He’s also mentally tough and he knows he’s exposed as a quarterback.
— Fields showed up at OSU with a quiet confidence and it permeates around the locker room. The guys believe in him. But he also lives his life the right way. This year he spent his time at his apartment with his dog or at the WHAC. He carries himself well. He can get after guys if need be but can also connect with guys by putting his arm around them. He will be focused on getting the respect of the locker room first and foremost.
— Day never had to adjust anything for Fields’ epilepsy treatments. The only thing they ever adjusted for him was prior to the Alabama game where he could hardly get out of bed and didn’t practice because of the hits he took against Clemson. They were aware of the epilepsy but he took his medicine and there was never an issue.
— He and Bears head coach Matt Nagy goes back to when Nagy was the QB at Delaware and Day was at New Hampshire. They stayed in touch as QB coaches. Nagy is always asking questions. Even when Fields first arrived at OSU, Nagy was asking about him. Nagy and Bears GM Ryan Pace did a great job of researching and discussing Fields. It’s a great fit for Justin Fields. “I’m excited for the city of Chicago to see Justin Fields. We’re all Bears fans now.”
— He recognized early on that Justin Fields has generational talent. He told that to Matt Nagy early on.
— Asked if Fields is capable of being a starter on day one, he said he thinks he could do it, but development always needs to happen for rookie quarterbacks. Having a development package for young quarterbacks is critically important. Could he play right away, sure, but he’ll be better in year two, three, four like anybody.
— It was unbelievable to watch Justin Fields last year. He could have opted out but he wanted to play, he wanted to beat Clemson, he fought, he petitioned, he spoke on national television. He wasn’t reckless about it. He was well thought out. “I think that shows you his leadership. I think that had an impact.” When you look back on him in 10 or 20 years, that will be an example of his leadership early on.
— Justin Fields fits really well with what Matt Nagy’s offense does. It’s the Chiefs’ offense and it accentuates what Fields does well because there’s a lot of flexibility in both the offense and with Fields.
— He’s proud of having two quarterbacks taken in the top 15 of the last three drafts, but it’s about what you do with that. And Fields knows that. “But it is exciting. I think it’s great for recruiting. It’s an exciting time to be a quarterback and a receiver at Ohio State.”
— If Fields has to sit and learn, he’ll do great at it. This is a long-term plan. Fields understands that he’s got less than two years as a starter under his belt so his job early on is to learn and build the experience so that he can have a long career in the NFL.
— Asked about Fields’ “methodical decision making,” Day said he’s super athletic and if something isn’t working, he’ll get it fixed and succeed with it. He’s never not been successful at something. He expects Fields to pick up on adjustments quickly. His decision making at Ohio State was excellent.
— What big moments are he most proud of? He first mentioned the “team up north game” in 2019 and then the Clemson game this past year. Those are the two highlights that immediately stick out.
— Walking around the facility today he met a few guys today including RB Tarik Cohen. He previously met Andy Dalton. His plan to get to know his teammates is for him to be himself, which is an easy job for him to do.
— “It’s definitely been crazy but I’ve been blessed” over the last 24 hours. It’s been hectic. “I really didn’t get much sleep last night.” He’s enjoyed every second in Chicago so far.
— What was he thinking when he decided to transfer from Georgia. He said an opportunity presented itself and he had to make a move that was best for his future and it definitely worked out.
— About his epilepsy, he was diagnosed after having a seizure in school. He work up in an ambulance. “It has had zero effect on football.” He’s never missed practice. He just takes a few pills every night. It’s been there for the past seven or eight years and he’s used to it now.
— How did he go about becoming a leader when he arrived at OSU? He didn’t have previous relationships so he showed how much he wanted to win and how much he wanted to be there. He did that through the workouts and the training. He built relationships along the way. It’s important to get to know your teammates and build those relationships.
— “The tradition here, the history here, the pride here in Chicago is unmatched. I’m glad to be a Bear.”
— Asked about how tortured the fan base has been when it comes to QBs and how he keeps the pressure from pouring down on him, he said there’s no added pressure on him because he expects great things from himself. Coming from Ohio State, he understands what it means to have pressure at a great place and he’ll work every day to reach his goals and reach new heights.
— What’s it been like hearing from Bears fans? “They’ve been great. They’ve shown nothing but support. I just can’t wait for the future.”
— Who were his quarterback heroes? Before HS it was Cam Newton but he’s become more of a Russell Wilson type. He can extend plays with his legs and has the arm talent.
— Asked about how he felt regarding the leaked report about his epilepsy, he said it is part of him. It is who he is and he has handled it.
— What about Russell Wilson’s game is he drawn to? The deep ball and his accuracy. Also how he carries himself as a leader. “I like his game. He’s an accurate quarterback.”
— The Indiana game was a learning experience. “There were a few plays where I was trying to be Superman.” He went back to his middle school days. It’s a game that he will remember for the rest of his life and will be a lesson he’ll never forget. “I usually learn from my mistakes.”
— He first met Trevor Lawrence when he was in the 10th grade. Those two are used to the competition between each other. They’re both great quarterbacks who love football. “I wish him nothing but the best. I hope he has a great career down in Jacksonville.”
— He’s an even-keeled guy because he’s been in sports forever and has failed at times and learned from those times. “I try to keep my body language neutral. My dad has harped on it…” from a young age.
— Does he think he could step up and be able to start from day one? “That’s not up to me, that’s up to Coach.” His job is to perform regardless.
— He can’t do anything about the false criticisms over the last month but now the draft is over and his focus is on helping the Chicago Bears win.
— He can’t give a favorite to succeed him because he wasn’t at enough practices. All three are smart and talented.
— He and Ryan Day have had a great relationship. He’s a better person than a coach. He’s taught him priceless life lessons and he’s grateful for that.
— Him not practicing before Alabama didn’t impact his performance. Him being injured impacted it more. Wyatt Davis and Josh Myers didn’t practice much that week either. But no matter how beat up they were, they only had one more game left so they were going to leave it all on the line. If everyone was healthy, “I think things could have went way differently. We’ll never know so there’s really no point in hoping for it.”
— Why was it important for him to fight to play last year? It was big for him because he’s been playing since he was 5 years old. Other leagues were playing. His team was at home watching other leagues play. They had gone through winter and summer workouts and his team put in so much work. “I was going to do everything I could to get our season back.” He had the social media platform to make an impact and possibly influence the Big Ten to flip their decision.
— Baseball helped him be able to throw the football off platform. Playing the middle infield you have to be able to throw from all kinds of angles. He played baseball up until his junior year. He played from the age of 4 until he left high school.
— The 2020 season was filled with trials for the Buckeyes. Going through that situation made them stronger individually and as a team. Without going through that, they wouldn’t have been the same team.