C.J. Stroud wasn’t just happy to be there.
The Ohio State quarterback wanted to win the Heisman Trophy after a stellar first season under center for the Buckeyes, and even though he thought Alabama’s Bryce Young was deserving of the honor, coming in fourth place didn’t sit right with Stroud.
“I wasn't happy with the results at the end at all,” Stroud said at a Rose Bowl media event at Disneyland in Anaheim, California on Monday. “I'm super happy for Bryce and the other contenders, but at the end of the day, I don't think I'm a competitor where I'm cool with just being fourth place. I don’t like being second, I don’t like being fourth, I don’t like being nothing – I want to be first. I’m just gonna keep working for it.”
The California native has passed for 3,862 yards and 38 touchdowns with just five interceptions this year despite never having thrown a single pass at the collegiate level before the 2021 season opener, and Stroud has taken home plenty of accolades for his regular season efforts.
Stroud became the first player ever to win the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year, Quarterback of the Year and Freshman of the Year honors in the same season, and the Associated Press named him a third-team All-American. However, two regular-season losses – including the Buckeyes’ first to archrival Michigan in 10 years – cost Stroud a shot at taking home college football’s most prestigious individual award.
“I'm blessed, but it's not good enough to me,” Stroud said. “I feel like I did a lot this season, but I could have definitely played better. But I feel like the stuff that I did do – I'm not saying I should have won. I think Bryce definitely did the most this year. He had the most opportunities. I think if I played a couple more games and I do the right things, maybe things go the other way, but I'm super happy for my brother. That's my brother right there, but at the end of the day I'm super blessed to be where I'm at.”
|4||C.J. STROUD||OHIO STATE||12||118||127||399|
|6||KENNETH WALKER||MICHIGAN STATE||18||53||85||245|
|10||BREECE HALL||IOWA STATE||0||5||7||17|
While Young won the award, both Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett also finished ahead of Stroud in the final tally. In terms of first-place votes, Stroud’s 12 were actually fewer than five other players.
If there’s a silver lining for Stroud, it’s that his fourth-place finish seems to have placed a chip on his shoulder as the Buckeyes prepare for the final game of the season, a Rose Bowl clash with Utah on Saturday.
“I think it will do a lot for me,” Stroud said. “I wouldn't say I'm disappointed. I'm happy to even be a Heisman finalist, but I don't think it was fair. I don't think that was the truth, but I think it's not my job. My job is not to critique myself or critique others. I'm just supposed to play. I do have a voice, and I will speak my voice. I think it's just making the game fun.
“Who just wants to see somebody just take the fourth place and be all happy with it? I've never been that type of player. I'm a competitor. I'm not just going to take that and be all jolly and happy with it. It will drive me for the rest of my life, probably.”
Also on Monday, Stroud seemed to allude to a moment during the Heisman ceremony that caught a lot of attention, when one-time Michigan Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard took a shot at Ohio State while the Buckeye quarterback and Hutchinson were standing next to each other on stage.
Aidan Hutchinson reminding CJ Stroud at the Heisman ceremony— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) December 12, 2021
Just like his standing in the Heisman vote, Stroud said the negativity that came his way during his trip to New York won’t be something he soon forgets.
"It just adds more fuel to the fire,” Stroud said. “I appreciate all those people asking me weird questions the whole weekend and being negative towards me. I remember all that type of stuff. I peep it, but I don’t really say too much. I’m gonna keep it cool, calm and relaxed and let God handle all that. I’m gonna just go out there and keep working hard and try to be the best player I can be.”
A week after the Heisman trophy was awarded, Stroud posted a series of photos from the event on Instagram with a captain that read, “this is how villains are made,” using the hashtag “#4thplace.”
Stroud said the post wasn’t meant to be taken all that seriously, but his comments made it more than clear that he was impacted by the entire situation in one way or another.
“At the end of the day it’s a caption, but I just have fun with it,” Stroud said. “People have fun with me all the time, they’re always making fun of me, I’m gonna have fun with it. This is football, it’s not meant to be all tight up. I’m going to express my feelings sometimes as well. When I said that I meant that as like, ‘Watch this. It’s not over yet.’”
The first step on his road to redemption would be a bounceback Buckeye win in the Rose Bowl, where Stroud and Ohio State will look to earn a victory that could take some sting out of the loss that ended their hopes at more distinguished accolades – both individual and otherwise – last month.