Ryan Day Says Ohio State Players and Staff Are “Going to Lean On Each Other” After Dwayne Haskins’ Death

By Dan Hope on April 11, 2022 at 2:38 pm
Ryan Day and C.J. Stroud

As Ryan Day and his son RJ drove back to Columbus after RJ participated in the Elite 11 Regional in Massillon, Ohio, on Saturday, Ohio State’s head coach struggled to find the words to talk to his son about what happened that morning.

That two-hour drive home came just hours after former Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who Ryan said “was like a big brother” to RJ, was killed when he was hit by a truck on Saturday morning. The elder Day, who was Haskins’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for his final two seasons as a Buckeye, was still struggling to process the tragedy when he met with the media on Monday morning.

“When we were driving back and trying to wrap our minds around it, I didn't really have anything good to tell him, really,” Ryan Day said. “I couldn't quite understand what to think of it all. Just very confusing, sad. But it makes you hug your loved ones a little bit more, and you just understand how fragile life is. But something like this, it's difficult to explain.”

Day, who spoke about his former quarterback for about 25 minutes on Monday, said it was “a very, very difficult weekend” for him, his team and his staff as they came to terms with Haskins’ untimely passing. Just over 48 hours after the news broke on Saturday morning, Day said the emotions remained raw for everyone within the program who knew Haskins well.

“He meant a lot to my family, meant a lot to this program, and he's going to be sorely missed,” Day said. “So close to Saturday morning right now, it's still hard to kind of get our feet underneath us and see clearly right now, but we all are hurting.”

While the majority of Ohio State’s current players never played with Haskins, who left Ohio State after the 2018 season to enter the NFL draft, there are still more than a dozen fifth- and sixth-year players on the team who did play with Haskins. And there are several other Ohio State players, including starting quarterback C.J. Stroud, who knew Haskins well even though they arrived at Ohio State after Haskins had left.

Day said the Buckeyes had a team meeting to talk through their emotions on Monday, after which team captain Kamryn Babb – one of the Buckeyes who did play with Haskins in 2018 – led a team prayer. And Day says he has encouraged his players and staff members who are hurting to “lean on each other” as they cope with their grief.

“When you're part of a family, that's what you do. And that's about all you can do. There’s nothing you can do to make it better at this point,” Day said. “We're going to lean on each other as best we can. There's no real blueprint for things like this.

“What you can’t do is just try to do something or say something you think's gonna make it all better. It's not gonna happen. You have to go through the process.”

Day said Ohio State will honor Haskins during Saturday’s spring game and are talking about doing something to honor him throughout the 2022 season as well, though the Buckeyes are still deciding how exactly they want to do that.

“In today's day and age, things happen so fast, we're just trying to digest it all. I have a list of things that I've written down; some probably too big, some maybe not big enough. We'll just keep talking about it this week,” Day said. “We're certainly going to do something on Saturday to recognize him in some sort of a tribute, which I think is very, very appropriate. Especially with Buckeye Nation all being together. 

“Buckeye Nation meant a lot to Dwayne. I think having everybody there on Saturday is significant, and we'll make sure we do things the right way. And then moving forward, we just want to make sure we do it the right way and think it through.”

“He meant a lot to my family, meant a lot to this program, and he's going to be sorely missed.”– Ryan Day on Dwayne Haskins

Day said he has been in touch with Haskins’ family and wants them to know that they have the support of the Ohio State football program behind them, though he also wants to respect the family’s requests for privacy.

Day also said he appreciates the support Haskins’ family and Ohio State have received over the past few days from throughout the nation, even from other schools like Michigan and Clemson.

“I just think that the outpouring of support nationally – opponents, rivals – has just been nothing but first class,” Day said. “And in moments like this, it's bigger than sports and bigger than football, and it means a lot to us to see those people reach out in support.”

Haskins’ accomplishments on the football field have been well-documented since Saturday’s tragedy as Ohio State fans have remembered their favorite moments from his career as a Buckeye. Day said his favorite on-field memory from Haskins’ career was Ohio State’s 2018 overtime win over Maryland, in which Haskins threw for 405 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 59 yards and another three touchdowns to lead the Buckeyes to a 52-51 victory.

“I thought that was the game where he really grew up,” Day said. “That was back in his home state, and he was not going to be denied that day. And he showed real toughness, which was something that I know he wanted to kind of prove to everybody that he was not just a throwing quarterback … I think Dwayne saw himself as a passer who could also run the ball, and he was trying to show it that day, and that was a very, very, very difficult game, and he stepped up in a big way. And I’ll remember that one probably the most.”

When Day talked to his players, however, they said the biggest thing they remember about Haskins is his smile. And Day said he will remember the compassion Haskins had for his family, friends, teammates and coaches.

“He left a legacy even at 24 years old,” Day said. “And I think that says so much about who he was as a person, because of that. I just think the outpouring of support shows what type of special person he was.”

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