'We're built for this.' Justin Fields' father takes draft scrutiny in stride

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra

Pablo Fields repeated the line several times.

“We’re built for this,” Justin Fields’ father said Monday.

As the NFL draft finally arrives Thursday, no player has seemingly come under more scrutiny than the former Ohio State quarterback. But Pablo Fields said that neither he nor Justin is fazed by most of it.

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields could be the third player taken in Thursday's NFL draft.

Fields was once considered likely to be the second quarterback taken in the draft, behind only Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. Now the highest he’s considered a possibility at is No. 3 to San Francisco. It’s conceivable he could be the fifth quarterback taken.

“We are a family of faith,” Pablo Fields said, “so we believe wherever he goes, it's where God wants him to go.”

Based on his stellar two years at Ohio State, Fields would seem to be among the safer picks of the draft. After transferring from Georgia, he led the Buckeyes to the College Football Playoff in both of his seasons. Fields was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2019, throwing for 41 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

Justin Fields and coach Ryan Day celebrate the College Football Playoff semifinal win over Clemson on Jan. 1.

Last year, after he led the charge among players to get the Big Ten to reinstate its season, Fields wasn’t as consistently spectacular. But in the cathartic win against Clemson in the CFP semifinals, he was brilliant in passing for six touchdowns.

Despite NFL skills, Justin Fields has critics during NFL Draft lead-up

Fields can make all the throws. He is a dangerous runner. He grew into being a highly respected team leader. He proved his toughness and competitive fire by playing through injuries.

Yet that didn’t stop the questions. Critics questioned his ability to work through his progressions in the pocket. ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky, a former NFL quarterback, said on a radio show that some teams questioned Fields’ work ethic. Then came the revelation that Fields had epilepsy.

“Friends have sent me text messages: ‘Oh, man, this is so bad how they're treating Justin. I'm praying for you guys,’” Pablo Fields said. “And I'm like, ‘You idiot. He's getting ready to be drafted, most likely in the first round and be an NFL football player and paid a king's ransom to play a kid's game. And you're saying that I'm over here depressed and crying in a pillow? I mean, come on.’ This part of the territory.”

Justin Fields' epilepsy non-issue

Fields said the epilepsy disclosure is a non-issue.

“All your medical history, that's private, and it didn’t stay private,” he said. “He's never missed a practice. He's never missed a game or anything. If you got diagnosed with that when you were little, that goes in your medical record. But he's good.”

Pablo said the only criticism that got under Justin’s skin was Orlovsky’s.

“The Orlovsky fellow called Justin and apologized 10 times over,” he said. “He said he was irresponsible for putting that out without doing verification.”

Ohio State coach Ryan Day acknowledged that he’s been frustrated by the criticism of Fields and staunchly defended him.

“There's a lot of people in the draft, and some guys get a pass and some guys don't,” he said. “And certainly people have taken shots at Justin.”

Day likened playing quarterback at Ohio State to being the shortstop for the New York Yankees.

“With that comes great scrutiny,” he said.

Justin Fields 'does extra work'

Ohio State guard Wyatt Davis, a likely pick Friday in the second or third round of the draft, said he has also been baffled by the criticism of Fields.

“When the season was over, you had all these talking heads saying that it was a no-brainer that Justin was going to be the second quarterback picked,” he said. “We made it to the national championship, and he was playing lights out season long. In my opinion, he is the best quarterback in the draft. I just feel all this scrutiny that's coming out really doesn't make sense to me.

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“It's like these people every week are trying to throw out something new that's negative about him. There was a take as far as his love for the game, that people were questioning his character.”

Davis contrasted his decision when the Big Ten canceled its season with Fields’. Davis opted out before the conference reversed its decision.

“Truth be told, when I opted out, he was in a better position than I was (for the draft), and he stayed the whole time,” he said. “That's a lot to be said about his love for the game and his dedication and the type of player he is.

“This is a guy that does extra work when he doesn't need to, is in the film room all day, and puts himself and the team in a great position to be successful based upon his work ethic.”

Justin Fields to watch NFL Draft in Atlanta

Pablo Fields said this isn’t the first time his family has experienced difficult scrutiny. Justin’s decision to transfer from his home-state Georgia to Ohio State wasn’t exactly greeted with congratulations from Bulldogs fans.

“A bunch of things that were said were untrue,” he said. “We’re built for it. We went through it, and we’re better for it, honestly.”

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Fields said he has empathy for players who lack the strong family support his son has. Pablo Fields served as a police officer for 30 years. His wife is an attorney. Justin’s mom, who’s in corporate management, also has a close relationship with her son.

“We can all vet different people to pick out the best (management) team for Justin,” Fields said.

Justin will be at home in Atlanta for the draft, surrounded only by his closest relatives. The draft process hasn’t been easy, but the Fields family is determined to soak it in.

“I don’t want to be 20 years down the road and saying, ‘Man, I wish I would have enjoyed this more,’” Pablo said. “I’ve gotten a little wiser over the years, and I’m taking it all in. You take the good and the bad, and you learn from it. It’s a blessing. It really is.”