In his first interview session with the media in more than seven months, Justin Fields’ confidence was unmistakable.
While Fields demonstrated more of a quiet confidence in his first season as Ohio State’s starting quarterback last year, showing no shortage of swagger on the field but rarely making bold comments off of it, a different side of Fields shined through on Tuesday.
Fields wasn’t afraid to stoke the flames of Ohio State’s rivalry with Michigan, saying that his goal for this year’s edition of The Game would be to “beat the brakes off them.” And when he was asked about his goals for the 2020 season as a whole, he made it clear he is expecting both himself and his team – especially his team – to be the best in the country.
“Team-wise, we want to first start off with beating the team up north and winning a Big Ten championship, then we want to go on to win the first playoff game and win the national championship,” Fields said. “Personally, I want to show everybody that I’m the best quarterback in the nation. Of course I want to win the Heisman and do all that stuff, but the team comes first, so if none of that happens, I’m fine with the national championship trophy sitting in the front of the Woody.”
Fields couldn’t have set loftier goals for himself or the Buckeyes if he tried, but if you’re an Ohio State fan or one of his teammates, that’s exactly what you want to hear from one of your newly minted captains.
Winning a Heisman Trophy or a national title doesn’t come easily, but Fields came within reach of both last year, when he finished third in the Heisman race and led the Buckeyes to an undefeated regular season. Joe Burrow was ultimately the one who achieved both of those goals last season as LSU’s starting quarterback, while Ohio State lost to Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals, but coming up short last season has only added more fuel to the fire for Fields going into this season.
“I think we all see the opportunity we have on the table in terms of coming back and being able to play and compete for a national championship,” Fields said. “So kind of just seeing the opportunity we have right now has just made us work so much harder this offseason. Me personally, I’ve been working like crazy this offseason. I’ve totally switched up my diet and stuff like that. Just doing the little things and kind of just doing as much as possible just to become a better player each and every day. So I feel great right now. My body feels great. And I’m ready to go.”
“Of course I want to win the Heisman and do all that stuff, but the team comes first, so if none of that happens, I’m fine with the national championship trophy sitting in the front of the Woody.”– Justin Fields on his goals for the 2020 season
This offseason hasn’t been the offseason that Fields or anyone else expected, as the Buckeyes had only three spring practices and were completely away from campus for three months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Fields didn’t let that keep him from working as hard as ever. During the months that he was back in Georgia, Fields worked out regularly with quarterback trainers Quincy Avery and Ron Veal while he also had regular Zoom meetings with Ryan Day to break down film.
While several projected first-round 2021 NFL draft picks like Fields have now opted out of the 2020 college football season due to the uncertainty that surrounds it, Fields said Tuesday that he wasn’t yet entertaining that possibility, instead keeping his focus on preparing for Ohio State’s season with hopes that the Buckeyes will get to chase a national title once again this fall.
“I’ve just been trying to improve every part of my game in terms of knowing the defense, knowing what we’re supposed to do and really, just going back to the basics and kind of just doing what I usually do before every season and that’s just get better with the basic stuff, really,” Fields said. “So that’s what my main focus has been.”
Fields expects to be great as long as he’s able to play this fall, and his teammates are certainly expecting the same from him, as evidenced by their decision to select him as one of this year’s seven team captains.
In addition to being a confident leader, Fields is also regarded as a great teammate, and fellow Ohio State captain Josh Myers said that’s why Fields is one of the players the Buckeyes look up to the most.
“I think just how approachable he is and how open he is to talk to anybody and teach anybody anything, regardless of who they are or where they are in the program, I think is huge for him in being a great captain,” Myers said of Fields. “And then another thing that I think is huge is just his ability to lead. He just is a natural. Some people have it, some people don’t. He has just the natural ability to lead other people.”