Ohio State’s Justin Fields picked by Chicago Bears with No. 11 pick in NFL draft
While waiting to hear his name called in the opening round of the NFL draft on Thursday night, former Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields received a phone call from Matt Nagy.
“He just asked me if I was ready to be a Chicago Bear,” Fields said, recalling his back-and-forth with the team’s coach.
Little response was needed.
“I told him of course,” Fields said.
Chicago had traded up to the No. 11 pick to select Fields after he had tumbled outside of the top-10, where three other quarterbacks were taken over him.
It was not an unexpected slide as Fields had been among the more scrutinized prospects in this year’s draft class.
But as recently as last fall, his stock had appeared higher, projected as the second-best quarterback in this class behind only Clemson star Trevor Lawrence, who has been viewed as a generational prospect and went first overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars as expected.
As teams passed on him, Fields sought to maintain perspective, guided by a Christian faith.
“I’m the kind of guy that thinks everything happens for a reason,” he said. “So it was God’s plan for me to be a Bear. I’m more than excited and more than ready to get up there.”
Fields watched the draft with family members at their home in Kennesaw, Georgia. Most of them were on edge as his fate remained unknown for the first 90 minutes of the draft, while Fields felt as if he maintained more calm.
“I’ve been in so many different situations in my life where I think I want something, I think I want to do this, but God has a different plan for me,” Fields said. “I put my full trust in God, and he’s put me in a perfect place for me. Whatever his will is is what’s going to happen.”
Speaking with reporters on a Zoom call following his selection, Fields didn’t show hard feelings for the teams that left him on the board and said he would not hold a chip on his shoulder as a result.
“My goal is not to worry about those teams,” he said. “Those teams have nothing to do with me. If we play that team, my goal is to beat them. I’m not worried about the draft. The draft is over for me. For me personally, I’m ready to get to work.”
As much as his fall was a dominant storyline Thursday, his early selection was still rare for a Buckeyes passer.
Since the common draft era that started in 1967, only Dwayne Haskins Jr. and Art Schlichter had been selected in the first round.
Schlichter, who was drafted fourth overall by the Indianapolis Colts in 1982, remains the school’s highest-drafted quarterback.
Since emerging as a top high school recruit in Kennesaw, Georgia, Fields had been lauded for his NFL potential, fitting the mold of a dynamic dual-threat quarterback that has grown in popularity and success across the league, evident in recent MVP winners Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes.
Not only displaying a talented arm in two seasons starring at Ohio State following his transfer from Georgia, Fields also showed off speed.
During a pro-day workout last month, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds, an unofficially recorded time that was faster than dozens of wide receivers in this draft class.
But despite the physical traits, Fields had drawn scrutiny from teams over the past couple of months, publicized in various leaked media reports and broadcasts.
The criticism often centered on intangibles, raising questions about his work ethic or love for football. It often gained instant pushback from many people who had worked closely with Fields.
In a Zoom press conference earlier this month, Ohio State coach Ryan Day went on for several minutes about his former quarterback’s diligence and effort, pushing back on many of the knocks leveled against him.
Calling Fields one of “the hardest-working guys” he had coached, Day pointed to Fields’ thorough preparation for this past season with the Buckeyes. He switched to a vegan diet to be in better shape and was focused in workouts.
When the Big Ten’s season was called off in August due to the coronavirus pandemic, Fields started an online petition, garnering hundreds of thousands of signatures, which pushed for the league to reverse course.
Two months later, the Buckeyes opened against Nebraska and reached the national championship game in January.
Fields had a critical role in the College Football Playoff run. In a gutsy performance against Clemson in the semifinal, he shook off a bruising hit to his ribs to throw for a Sugar Bowl-record six touchdowns.
Fields left Ohio State with a 20-2 record as a starter.