Chris Fields Looks to Step Into a Big Role

By Kyle Rowland on April 22, 2013 at 9:30a
Chris Fields looks to take a step.

There are a thousand different things that go into making a championship football team. One component you'll always find in such teams, however, is an upperclassman emerging as a key contributor.

In 2002, Cie Grant was named a starter on what would eventually be Ohio State’s first national championship team in 34 years. He had come to Ohio State after a standout high school career in multiple sports, but football was his calling card.

His first three seasons as a Buckeye were fine, not exemplary, though. Luckily for Cie (and Buckeye fans), a switch went off before his final season. Grant was one of the leaders of the defense and helped anchor one of Ohio State's best defensive units of the past 25 years. It was Grant who was there to deliver a hit on Ken Dorsey on the final play of the second overtime in the thrilling national title game victory.

Four years later, Antonio Smith was the Buckeye who emerged amid championship hopes. A walk-on from Columbus, Smith went on to earn All-American honors in 2006. His steady play in the secondary contributed to Ohio State’s stellar defensive numbers – until that meeting with Urban Meyer’s Florida offense.

Sometimes a switch goes off, the proverbial light coming on, but it isn’t that simple. Division I college athletes don’t just see change with a sunset and dawn of a new day.

“It takes a lot of dedication, hard work and discipline,” Smith told Eleven Warriors. “Those were the three key characteristics I was blessed to have. I believe all of those things worked hand in hand and all of the components linked together.”

Those traits were evident once again last season in John Simon and Zach Boren. It was Etienne Sabino and Reid Fragel that truly stepped up, though, in their last hurrahs. The seniors – fifth-year in Sabino's case – provided a strong presence in the locker room and huddle, and also enjoyed breakouts on the field when it was "now or never" time.

The all-in attitude lifts teams and players to new heights. 

“Leadership is developed all the time,” said defensive coordinator Luke Fickell. “But it’s really how the people around them accept and handle and take it.”

In the spring of 2013, fifth-year senior Chris Fields, of which so much has been expected, heard the chatter. He’d performed well in the spring before, but it never panned out during the regular season, even though the previous regime showered praise on the “next Santonio Holmes.”

Suffice it to say, things haven't exactly gone according to plans for the Painesville, Ohio, product. In three seasons, Fields has 15 receptions for 191 yards and a touchdown as a receiver. Ordinary numbers, though Fields does have two critical touchdowns in his career – the only two of his career.

“I’ve been working my butt off the entire winter and the offseason, just trying to get my mechanics right. It’s been paying off since then.”

Last season, he had the final-minute scoring grab against Purdue, and in the forgettable 2011 season, Fields returned a punt for a touchdown that saved the day in a win over in-state foe Toledo.

Well, Fields now has the opportunity to leave lasting memories in the minds of Buckeye fans. Following the spring game – and months of transfer rumors – Meyer named Fields one of the starting wide receivers. The championship season reclamation is on target.

“I’m not going to stop working,” Fields said. “I’m not going to quit on myself. I’ve been working my butt off the entire winter and the offseason, just trying to get my mechanics right. It’s been paying off since then.”

His performance in Paul Brown Stadium was the first glimpse fans got of the player they figured would already be garnering headlines. Fields finished with 46 total yards and a touchdown. Combined with 14 practices of improved on-field technique and intensity, Meyer and the staff felt Fields was finally the skilled receiver that could provide Ohio State with something sorely needed on the field.

“Chris Fields has earned the starting spot, which is amazing,” Meyer said. “He is a wonderful guy that last year was very inconsistent. He’s earned the starting spot.”

The expression of surprise from Meyer stems from the first impression Fields made on his new head coach. One look at the 2012 stats and depth chart reveal it was not a good one. Fields played in only eight games, but he’s immune to adversity. It’s something he’s battled through before.

“He was always talented enough to play here,” wide receivers coach Zach Smith said. “There was just a different level of commitment by him both in learning the offense, understanding the offense and really developing himself fundamentally as a wide receiver. He did a great job this spring. I couldn’t have been happier with what he did.”

When you come to Columbus as a coveted recruit only to languish in unfulfilled potential for multiple seasons, quitting would be easy. Some would even understand the rational. Fields didn’t even entertain those thoughts. When he became a Buckeye, he had a purpose and that remains.

“I never was going to quit on Ohio State,” Fields said.

“When you go through adversity, you try to overcome it and try to work harder. That’s what I’ve been doing each year. Every time I go through something, I always keep a positive mentality that there’s always going to be a light at the end of the tunnel.”

On Sept. 1, that cliché will literally happen. Fields will be near the front line of Buckeyes charging out into Ohio Stadium from a tunnel in the southeast corner.

Perhaps the turning point of Fields’ career – when the light at the end of the tunnel became visible – was that dramatic Purdue game. He had a nondescript season up to that point. Zero catches. A few hours later, he would have three, including that season-saving touchdown.

Chris Fields by Season
Season Rec Yds Avg Lng TD
2012 4 55 13.8 35 1
2011 8 114 14.3 33 0
2010 3 22 7.3 10 0

Fields only caught one more pass the rest of the season, but all he needed was the realization that he could deliver when Ohio State needed game-defining plays. His answer was resounding.

“I was thinking too much about on and off the field stuff,” Fields admitted. “I wasn’t really glued into my right mindset. I’m having fun now. I’m muting everything outside the field, so it’s been good.”

Meyer isn’t the only Scarlet and Gray spectator taking notice in Fields. The wide receiver’s teammates also see a player responding to the final bell. Fields’ fellow starters – Philly Brown and Devin Smith – noticed hard work and better overall skills.

“Every time I go out there on that field I always try to make a big play,” Fields said. “I go out there and I think to myself that I deserve to be out here.

“This is my time to shine.”


Comments Show All Comments

Jugdish's picture

You do belong, Chris. You go out there this season a make a huge difference. Make Buckeye Nation proud.

Remember to get your wolverine spayed or neutered. TBDBITL

Dougger's picture

Well put. 

I like football

buck-I.8's picture

He's got the tools, but I won't be in his corner until I see the shift in mindset for myself, I'm skeptical.

stevebelliseeya's picture

Hey let's give the guy a chance...5th year senior who could have transferred under all the scrutiny and lack of production. Just Meyer's comments alone make me give him the benefit of the doubt this year. If he doesn't live up to it he will be lost in the shuffle completely. There is no senior bias in this Machine.
Good Luck Chris!

"We are eternal. All this pain is an illusion." - Tool

buck-I.8's picture

I'm not saying he doesn't get a chance, I'm just saying that I'm hearing all this great stuff about him on the field, and then as his classmate, hearing not-so-great stuff off the field. I'm not gonna put his business out there, all I'm saying is, I have reason for some skepticism.

TMargo's picture

At a big time program like Ohio State it only takes one year to leave your mark.  Have your breakout moments this year Chris and leave a lasting memory on us fans to cherish forever.  
Go Bucks!!

Earle's picture

Not to be that guy, but shouldn't the switch go "on" (like the lightbulb)?
Wholehearted agree with the concept of the article though.  You see it almost every year:  someone (sometimes heralded with unrealized potential, sometimes out of nowhere) steps up unexpectedly.  Not sure if it will be Fields or another Chris (Carter?), but someone is likely to surprise us. 

Snarkies gonna snark. 

buckeyepastor's picture

I am moved to agree that he has stepped up as a receiver and even a leader.   What I will be looking for is his overall game.   When I see him consistently block well downfield and see him do things downfield to bail out his QB, the little things that Devin and Philly have done so well, I will believe he has arrived.   

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

tdible2132's picture

Wouldn't be something if he ended up making a grab to win it in the national title. That Cie Grant comparison would look freakishly awesome if that happened!

13THandSummit's picture

That would be great if this proved to be true, but I see Corey Smith taking over the third receiver spot and one of Marshall or Wilson along with Hall filling out the other receiver spot on the field. I would be surprised to see Fields have a breakout year or even noticeably better numbers.

CowCat's picture

100% Buckeye

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer

Hovenaut's picture

Better late than never, here's to a solid year from him.

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

I prefer a great year.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Squirrel Master's picture

I just hope that he does fulfill his potential and gets playing time and makes something of it. My concern is that he will get the opportunity because he will be a senior, much like my concern with Hall, and it will stunt or upset a more talented player who is ready to step in and produce. IDK. I really hope he does take advantage and show us what he is capable of. I just hope it doesn't keep guys like Mike Thomas, Evan Spencer, Corey Smith and others off the field who might be more likely to produce.
It was one thing I did have an issue with in Tressel for a while, playing a senior over a more talented underclassman because of seniority. If a more talented player is there and ready to produce, he should be on the field. I don't think that is how Urban plays it but I just don't see at this point how Fields and Hall can be on the field when Wilson, Thomas, Smith, Marshall and Spencer might bring more to the offense.
It's one thing to get everyone a chance, its a complete other thing to put the best product on the field. I do hope I am wrong in my concern! The potential is there, I hope I see the results.

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

I always got to root for a guy who gets knocked down, has a difficutlt time and keeps on fighting to try to make it happen.  Good luck Chris and hope you have a year!
Go Bucks!!

Larryp713's picture

Best wishes to Chris, of course. The talent on that side of the ball must be motivating, and with all the attention on #5 and El Guapo, as well as the incoming playmakers, I can see Chris being an impact player this year. All these guys have to figure they are going to get plenty of one on one opportunities. If Braxton can make the right reads, and they have truly improved, Smith/Brown/Fields can have huge seasons.