In the moment

Bill Rabinowitz
Heisman Trophy finalists, from left, Dwayne Haskins Jr. of Ohio State, Kyler Murray of Oklahoma and Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama, pose with the Heisman Trophy at the New York Stock Exchange on Friday in New York. [Ralph Russo/The Associated Press]

NEW YORK — Dwayne Haskins Jr. spent his preteen years growing up in Piscataway, New Jersey, about 40 minutes from where the Heisman Trophy will be awarded on Saturday night.

“Being able to be in New York City for the Heisman is every little kid’s dream,” Haskins said Friday. “I’m here now and I just want to be in the moment.”

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The Ohio State redshirt sophomore quarterback is a finalist along with Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, who are fellow first-year starters. Though Haskins is considered a long shot to win, he spoke about his chances with the quiet self-assurance that is becoming a trademark.

“I think I’ve got a good shot,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”

But Haskins said he won’t be disappointed if he falls short in the voting.

“There’s no expectations of winning or losing,” he said. “I’m just excited to be here.”

Haskins’ numbers and records would make him a Heisman front-runner most years. He set almost every major Ohio State and Big Ten passing mark this season. Haskins has thrown for 4,580 yards and 47 touchdown passes with only eight interceptions. But until a dazzling three-game final stretch in which he threw for 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns, Haskins looked unlikely to be a Heisman finalist.

Haskins doesn’t have cable television. He was with his girlfriend Monday night when he learned through a Facetime conversation with Ohio State football sports information director Jerry Emig that he would indeed be headed to New York.

“I cried just because it’s a dream come true,” Haskins said. “It’s been a lot of work to be able to be here. It was a feeling of joy.”

But not of surprise. Haskins said again on Friday that he hasn’t been nervous for a football game since his sophomore year of high school.

“I step into every game knowing I can rock,” he said. “There’s no fear in my heart when I go out to play.”

Nor did he shy away when asked if he was the best quarterback in Ohio State history.

“I would say I would think so, but there were great guys before me — Braxton (Miller) and Troy (Smith) and Terrelle (Pryor) and J.T. (Barrett) and going back to (Joe) Germaine and (Art) Schlichter and everybody else like that,” Haskins said. “But I feel like I had the best season, so I’d probably say I’m the best quarterback.”

Even so, he said he has only scratched the surface of his potential. He spoke of eventually being a Hall-of-Famer.

“But I’ve got a lot of work to go get there,” Haskins said.

Whether he starts on the professional path after this year is the subject of much conjecture. Haskins is eligible to enter the NFL draft, and the expectation is that it would be difficult to turn that down if he’s the first-round pick he’s projected to be.

He said he has not made that decision and won’t talk to his family about it before Ohio State’s Rose Bowl game against Washington. Haskins has not wavered about his decision to play on New Year’s Day in what will be retiring coach Urban Meyer’s final game.

“I wanted to send coach Meyer out on the right note and be able to play in one of the biggest bowl games of all time and play for my teammates, whether I declare or not,” he said. “There was never any thought about me not playing in the game.”

Haskins is Ohio State’s first Heisman finalist since Smith won the award in 2006. Whether Haskins wins it or not, he takes pride in helping Ohio State get through what has been a tumultuous season. That, he said, is what his Heisman pitch would be.

“Throughout all the adversity, I feel I did the most I could for my team and I feel that should be respected,” Haskins said.


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