NCAA

Justin Fields Saw His Football Success Soar Because of Baseball

Quarterback Justin Fields and the Ohio State Buckeyes get back into the swing of things when they host Nebraska on Saturday in the odd October season-opener for both teams. Fields and the Buckeyes are getting a late start to the season because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Fields is a serious Heisman Trophy candidate and his football prowess may have benefitted from his days as a baseball player.

Justin Fields hungry to lead Ohio State

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The 2020 offseason has wreaked havoc with sports across the country. Games were canceled, postponed, or played without fans in attendance. Justin Fields and the Ohio State Buckeyes are coming off a 2019 season that saw them reach the College Football Playoff semifinals. Fields finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting.

On Aug. 11, 2020, the Big Ten made an announcement to postpone the football season because of COVID-19. The decision didn’t sit well with many players and fans. Fields debated transferring to a school that would be playing in the fall. Instead, he began a petition to reverse the decision. He was asked what his message would be to Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren.

“My biggest message to them would just be to get them to realize how bad our players want to play and just the guys that are coming back for their fifth year, coming back off of injury, I think that we owe it to those guys the most,” Fields said, according to ESPN. “I’ve just seen behind the scenes all the work that they’ve put in and how much they really care about it. And I honestly believe all the coaches and all the parents, players want us to play, and they all feel safe with the guidelines Ohio State has set.”

Fields was a hot-shot baseball prospect

Like most athletes, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields grew up playing multiple sports. He also excelled at them. Not only was Fields a gifted football player, but he was also a very talented baseball player. In fact, Fields, who began his college football career at Georgia before transferring, thought seriously about becoming a two-sport star for the Buckeyes.

According to Cleveland.com, Ohio State baseball coach Greg Beals and Fields discussed the possibility of Fields playing baseball when Fields first came to Ohio State. Football, however, was his future as a professional athlete and he had a whole new offense to learn. He knew he had to dedicate himself to learning the system.

Beals has always had the thought of Fields, a shortstop, playing for his team. He’s flirted with putting him in the outfield if Fields ever did change his mind. For now, he realizes Fields is a football guy first and that’ll keep him busy enough. “I know he’s got a lot on his plate,” Beals said. “I don’t know if baseball fits on that plate right now. If he called me up and wanted to talk about it, we would certainly have that conversation.”

Baseball has helped shape Fields’ football game

Justin Fields began playing baseball when he was 3 years old. According to his mother, Gina Tobey, Fields was a big boy growing up and always wanted to play with the older kids. One day, she approached a man who was coaching some elementary school-aged kids to see if her son, not yet 4 years old could play with them. “He was huge,” Tobey said to Cleveland.com. “My friends used to call him Little Deebo, because he was like this huge, 3-and-a-half year old. He looked like the 5- and 6-year-olds that were out there.”

Ron Veal, one of Fields’ first quarterback coaches, believes Fields’ arm strength actually comes from the strength in his legs. He said that strength is because of his work on the baseball diamond. “He’s always utilized his legs to get in a position to take ground balls,” said Veal. “He’s always used his legs to pitch. He always utilized his legs to hit. So the carryover was kind of elementary for him. When we started working as a quarterback, we just worked on his drops, his sets and learning to drive the ball with his legs and his hips and his core.”

Mike Yurcich, the 2019 quarterbacks coach for the Buckeyes and now the offensive coordinator at Texas, also believes baseball has helped Fields mentally. “I think in baseball there’s two outs, three strikes, runner on second — there’s a lot of information ‘pre-snap,’ and it’s the same thing with quarterback play,” Yurcich said. “Boom, boom, boom — here comes
the play. There’s a process and a checklist and I think that relates.”