NEW YORK – While most of the Ohio State football team has been able to get some downtime this week, Chase Young has had a full travel itinerary.
Young was in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Monday for the banquet for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which he ultimately won. After that, he went to Atlanta for the College Football Awards, where he won the Chuck Bednarik Award and was also a finalist for the Maxwell Award. Now, he’s in New York as one of four finalists for the Heisman Trophy, which will be awarded on Saturday night.
So when Young was asked Friday about what his week has been like for him, he was honest about taxing it’s been.
“Real tiring, man,” Young said. “I didn’t get enough sleep last night. I’ve just been tired. It’s been cool, though. It’s definitely a cool experience. You would think growing up, striving to get all these awards, it would be fun. But it’s just tiring.”
That’s not to say that Young isn’t appreciative of the opportunities and recognition that have come his way this week. For Young, the first-ever defensive player from Ohio State to be named a Heisman finalist, being in New York isn’t just a dream come true. It’s beyond his childhood dreams, knowing that players at his position – even when they’re the best defensive end in the country – typically don’t get Heisman invites.
“When you’re growing up, you never really think that defensive players have a chance to make it to the Heisman finalists, and here I am, and it’s just a blessing,” Young said. “It’s crazy, but it’s definitely a blessing.”
Ohio State’s other Heisman finalist, Justin Fields, didn’t expect to be in this position, either. While quarterbacks typically make up the majority of Heisman finalists – as he, LSU’s Joe Burrow and Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts do once again this year – he wasn’t expecting to get a ticket to New York in his first year as a collegiate starting quarterback.
“I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t,” Fields said Friday. “I didn’t think I would be this successful, especially my first year, but I’m definitely grateful for the opportunity.”
“It’s a dream come true. I always dreamt of this as a kid. So just actually being here, it’s just really unbelievable.”
Realistically, it would be a huge surprise if either Fields or Young brings the stiff-arm trophy home to Columbus this weekend. Burrow, who has already won the Maxwell, Walter Camp Player of the Year and Davey O’Brien awards, is fully expected to be the one whose name is called to the stage at the end of Saturday night’s ceremony at the PlayStation Theater.
Even so, they’ve already made history, becoming the first pair of Buckeyes to be invited to the Heisman ceremony in the same year.
Having the opportunity to share that experience with each other has made it extra special.
“Being here with Chase and sharing these memories and making memories here, it’s just great,” Fields said. “It just shows you how well the coaches do developing players and how hard we work, so just seeing multiple players here from Ohio State, of course it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Once Young and Fields get back to Columbus on Sunday, awards season will be over and it will be time to get back to business. Young will be able to catch up on the sleep he needs to perform at his best, and Fields will be back in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center rehabilitating the sprained MCL in his left knee – which, he acknowledges, traveling has not been an optimal environment for.
“It was kind of stiff getting off the plane,” Fields said. “The trainers gave me this little exercise routine that I can do when I have off time just to get it better.”
Several of Ohio State’s best players have been on the awards circuit this week – also including J.K. Dobbins and Jeff Okudah, who joined Young and Fields in Atlanta, and Jordan Fuller, who was in New York earlier this week for the National Football Foundation banquet as a Campbell Trophy finalist – while the Buckeyes’ opponent for their College Football Playoff game in two weeks, Clemson, had just one player out of town as an award finalist (Isaiah Simmons).
That’s led to some concerns from Ohio State fans that the award banquets could serve as a distraction for the Buckeyes that gives the Tigers an advantage in their preparation. Both Fields and Young, though, said they have spent time watching Clemson film while they’ve been traveling to make sure they don’t get behind in their preparation.
“When I’m in my room and I get some downtime, I try to watch film of Clemson, pick up a lot of tendencies and things that they’ll allow me to do,” Young said. “I feel like if you love the game, it’s kind of easy to stay focused.”
Both Fields and Young maintained all season that they were solely focused on winning games, not awards, and that hasn’t changed. Both of them care far more about winning the College Football Playoff than winning the Heisman Trophy. But both of them also recognize that being invited to the Heisman ceremony is an opportunity that only a select few college football players get to partake in each year, so Saturday will be a chance for them to enjoy that moment.
“I try to go out in the offseason and work extremely hard and come out in the season and play the best ball that I can play, and I’m here, so it feels good,” Young said.