Like many of his teammates, Pat Elflein had a decision to make.
Would he return to Ohio State or forgo remaining eligibility and enter the NFL Draft?
It was a life-altering decision, one that had both pros and cons for Elflein and quite a few of his other teammates. Ultimately, nine Buckeyes decided to turn pro early. Elflein opted to return.
“Talking with the coaches and my family, we just decided that the pros of coming back are greater than the pros of leaving right now,” Elflein said at the time. “I love Ohio State. I love the coaches. I want to graduate and there’s still some things, personally, that I want to accomplish here.”
Since those words, Elflein graduated with his degree in communications. He won the Rimington–Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year Award, which is given annually to the Big Ten’s best offensive lineman. Elflein also won the Rimington Trophy, given to the best center in college football. He became the first Ohio State player to win a national individual award since 2008 when Malcolm Jenkins took home the Thorpe.
He also anchored a Buckeyes offensive line, one that helped guide Ohio State to an 11-1 record and a College Football Playoff berth. The Buckeyes play Clemson on Dec. 31 for the right to play for the national championship.
It seems like a simple question, but we ask it anyway. Elflein turned down a shot to get to the NFL early for one more year in college, so was it worth it?
“It was a no-brainer for me,” Elflein says now, “and it’s paid off 1,000 percent.”
“I don’t think you could ask for a better fifth year.”
It’s hard to argue with that logic, really.
But while it may have been a “no-brainer” for Elflein to return, one of his fellow offensive linemen is going to have to make a similar decision in the near future. Billy Price, a fourth-year junior guard for the Buckeyes, could opt to forgo his final season and move on to the NFL following the conclusion of this season.
When asked about his future at the team’s on-campus media day ahead of the Fiesta Bowl, Price politely declined.
“We’re going to focus on Clemson,” he said. “We’re not going to worry about that kind of question. Sorry.”
Elflein said while it may have been the right decision for him to return to school, every case is different. Another big reason why Elflein opted to return for his fifth year was to play center and show NFL teams he has the capability of playing multiple positions. Price could potentially be the Buckeyes’ center next season should he return.
“I’ve talked to him just about — it’s a similar situation to me,” Elflein said. “Just the pros and cons of what I experienced leaving and coming back and what you can still do here and all that. … I’ve given him my advice and what I thought.”
Price will eventually make his decision. He’ll either return to Ohio State for his fifth season and become the rare four-year starter or he’ll move on to the NFL where he’ll likely be an early-round pick.
For Elflein, things couldn’t have worked out any better. And now, he’s on the cusp of playing for a second national championship in three seasons.
“I knew I was a good football player, but I knew there was a lot of room for improvement still and I could come back here and get better at those things,” Elflein said. “Sometimes guys should go early, but I wasn’t ready to go early and I think it’s paid off.”