Unachieved Goals Weigh on Marvin Harrison Jr.’s Mind As He Wrestles with NFL Draft Decision

By Dan Hope on December 7, 2023 at 3:43 pm
Marvin Harrison Jr.

All year long, Marvin Harrison Jr. said he had two goals for his potential final season at Ohio State: Beating “the team up north” and winning the Big Ten championship.

Because Ohio State’s loss to Michigan two weeks ago prevented the Buckeyes from achieving either of those goals this season, Harrison is now wrestling with whether this should be his final season as a Buckeye.

On the surface, Harrison’s decision seems obvious. He’s widely projected to be a top-three overall pick and the first non-quarterback selected in the 2024 NFL draft, so Harrison has nothing to gain from a draft stock perspective by staying at Ohio State for his senior year. But it would give Harrison one more chance to achieve the goals that have eluded him and his Buckeye teammates for the last three years, and that’s why Harrison isn’t ready to make any declarations about his future right now.

“Coming into this year, I wanted to beat the team up north and win a Big Ten championship and obviously I did not do that this year. So I think there's a great motive to come back if that's what I decide to do,” Harrison said Thursday. “That's something I definitely want to do in my Ohio State career and not having done that yet definitely opens the door for me to come back. But I’m undecided. Really just taking it day by day at this time.”

When Harrison arrived at Ohio State in 2021, he couldn’t envision a future in which he would leave OSU without beating Michigan or playing in the Big Ten Championship Game. After all, Ohio State had won eight straight games against Michigan and won four straight Big Ten champions when Harrison’s career began. Since 2021, however, Michigan has beaten Ohio State three straight times and went on to win the Big Ten title instead of the Buckeyes.

“I think as a freshman, you come to the Big Ten, a school like Ohio State where the Big Ten championship is played and you want to play in Indy so bad. And I will say, when I got here, it's was like, it's gonna be a foregone conclusion that we're gonna play in Indy every year, and obviously that has yet to happen for me,” Harrison said. “It's something that if I do decide to move on and not come back, I'm gonna have to live with. It would be very hard for me.”

“Coming into this year, I wanted to beat the team up north and win a Big Ten championship and obviously I did not do that this year. So I think there's a great motive to come back if that's what I decide to do.”– Marvin Harrison Jr. on his NFL draft decision

Realistically, it would still come as a big surprise if Harrison ends up staying at Ohio State for his senior year. It’s rare for a prospect with Harrison’s draft stock to do so, and he wouldn’t be the first top prospect to have second thoughts about leaving early before ultimately making the decision everyone expects. C.J. Stroud did that just last year, waiting until the final day before the NFL draft declaration deadline to announce his decision, one that no one would second-guess now that Stroud went No. 2 overall and is the frontrunner to be the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

While Harrison hasn’t ruled out the possibility of staying at Ohio State for one more year, it’s also possible he might not even play in the Buckeyes’ final game of this season. Harrison said Thursday that he doesn’t know yet whether he’ll play in the Cotton Bowl against Missouri, though he doesn’t necessarily feel like he has to make an NFL decision before the Cotton Bowl, as he could play against Missouri on Dec. 29 and still have until Jan. 15 to decide whether or not he’ll enter the draft.

He says the Buckeyes are motivated to win the Cotton Bowl because they don’t want to end the season with back-to-back losses for the second year in a row. And he says it would be meaningful for him to play in that game even if he enters the draft because it would be one last chance for him to play with his Ohio State teammates.

“Always want to go out with a win. Hopefully, that's something that we could do there if I were to play,” Harrison said. “And coming in with a group of guys one last time that you came in here with like TreVeyon, Emeka, JT. That ‘21 class is so special to me, just the group of guys that I came in with. We had COVID that year (when they were high school seniors), so we really didn't get to hang out with each other like most other classes, so we really bonded together once we got on campus and being in our apartments like really close to each other, playing Nerf guns like that and everything, it was super fun. So to have one last experience with them and go out with a win would definitely be super special for me.”

Harrison says he will be at the Cotton Bowl with the Buckeyes regardless of whether or not he ends up playing in that game.

Before he decides what’s next, Harrison will spend the next two days in New York as one of four finalists for the 2023 Heisman Trophy, which will be awarded Saturday night. Harrison is also up for the Biletnikoff Award, which honors college football’s top pass catcher and will be awarded Friday during ESPN’s College Football Awards show. Regardless of whether he wins those awards, Harrison will go down as one of if not the greatest receiver in Ohio State history.

Harrison says he’d trade all of the individual accolades he’s received, though, for just one pair of Gold Pants and a chance to play in the Big Ten Championship Game.

“I'm definitely blessed to be getting all the recognition that I am for these different awards and everything like that, but I think I would trade it all for a win against the team up north, get to Indy and play in the Big Ten championship,” Harrison said. “So it's been tough dealing with it, but we stick together as a team, as a group. We support each other, lift our heads up, and you just got to move on with life. Figure out how we can get better for next year, and what we can do to get that win.”

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