Ohio State football coach Ryan Day defends Justin Fields amid NFL pre-draft criticism

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra

Ohio State football coach Ryan Day on Friday praised the work ethic of Justin Fields, pushing back on recent criticism leveled against the former Buckeyes quarterback ahead of this month’s NFL draft.

“He's been one of the hardest-working guys, he’s been one of the most competitively tough guys, and when he sets his mind to something, he gets it done,” Day said. “There's been a lot of talk out there, and maybe they think they know him better than I do, but I know this: whoever drafts Justin Fields is going to get a great player and a great person.”

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Much of the recent pre-draft brouhaha surrounding Fields began two days ago on an episode Pat McAfee’s popular SiriusXM Radio show.

Dan Orlovsky, an ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback, relayed some feedback from unnamed league insiders who were questioning Fields’ passion for the sport and dedication.

It was unclear the origin of the criticism passed along by Orlovsky.

On Friday’s Zoom call with local reporters, Day spoke for more than two minutes in defense of Fields and felt miffed at the recent knocks against the passer who is still expected to be among the top picks in the draft after an impressive pro-day workout earlier this week.

“I think the world of him,” Day said, “and I’m upset some people would say that about him.”

Day pointed to Fields’ effort last fall in pushing for the Big Ten to restart its season after initially scrapping its slate of games in August because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Fields started an online petition that garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures and created a groundswell of public opinion pushing for the conference to reconsider its decision as commissioner Kevin Warren then pledged it would not be revisited.

“I’ve heard all kinds of different things,” Day said. “I don't know what people have said, what they haven't. I read stuff on my phone. I don't quite understand that stuff and a love for football?

Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) talks to head coach Ryan Day during the first quarter of the NCAA football game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

“There's a lot of guys that opted out. Are they saying the same thing about those guys who didn’t want to play? Then not only does he not opt out, he fights to get the season back. He has a petition, he goes on national TV and fights to get the season back. Then he comes out and plays and plays really well.”

Day added that he was particularly impressed by Fields’ desire to overcome adversity after a couple of off-games against Indiana and Northwestern late in the season and coping with an injury in the College Football Playoff semifinal win over Clemson.

Despite absorbing a brutal hit to his ribs, Fields missed only a play and ultimately threw a record-setting six touchdowns in the triumph.

“Most people would've begged out at that point,” Day said.

Day previously coached in the NFL for two seasons in 2015 and 2016 when he was the quarterbacks coach for the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers.

In eight games in 2020, Fields threw for 2,100 yards and 22 touchdowns to six interceptions.

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jkaufman@dispatch.com

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