Rob Oller | Quinn Ewers traded senior year of wonder for Ohio State season of woebegone
The temptation is to jump on the bash-Quinn Ewers bandwagon, to rip the one-and-done Ohio State quarterback for taking name, image and likeness money and running back home. But besides fueling a smug sense of “I told you so,” ridiculing the 18-year-old Texan is less constructive than learning from his loss.
And make no mistake, Ewers lost the most here. Sure, he collected more than $1 million in NIL endorsement money before waving bye-bye to the Buckeyes this week and entering the transfer portal, but he also paid a heavy price for padding his piggy bank.
In skipping his senior season at Southlake (Texas) Carroll to join the Buckeyes in August, Ewers exchanged wonderful memories with high school friends and teammates for what turned out to be a woebegone few months in Columbus, where he was a non-factor on the field and at times a lonely soul off it.
It didn’t need to be that way. Ewers left high school early mostly because Texas law does not permit high school athletes to profit off NIL, so he made the jump to college to collect his riches. But if he is as good as advertised, or as good as he or his “advisors” think, the $1.4 million he reportedly pocketed for signing with GT Sports Marketing to sign autographs is a drop in the bucket compared to what he would make in the NFL.
Even if the NIL money served as an insurance policy against injury, or as a nest egg in case his college career turns out average and not exceptional, jettisoning his senior season of high school for immediate financial gain seems short-sighted, especially in light of how it went at Ohio State, where he remained fourth on the QB depth chart most of the season.
At the risk of becoming the lead character in Springsteen’s “Glory Days,” there is something magical about high school sports, whether they occurred 40 years ago — ahem — or in 2021.
“It’s sad because the toothpaste is out of the bottle (for Ewers), but there is nothing like walking down the hallway seeing friends and the excitement you get during a high school day,” Hartley football coach Brad Burchfield said. “It’s irreplaceable. Joking with friends. Going to basketball games and sitting in the student section. And what’s sad is you sacrifice that for something that will always be there. College football isn’t going away.”
Burchfield described the emotional atmosphere of high school, but Ewers also lost out on a season of fine-tuning his skills during high school game action. Instead, he played in only one game for the Buckeyes, taking the final two snaps in OSU’s 56-7 win over Michigan State. He received top-level coaching at Ohio State, but getting limited reps during practice meant learning happened mostly in the meeting room. Essentially, Ewers traded his high school experience for a college playbook that no longer matters, since reportedly he is transferring to Texas, Texas A&M or Texas Tech.
“I don’t know what advice he received from parents and coaches,” Burchfield said. “You would think that somebody of some repute would say, ‘Go do you for Southlake Carroll, and we’ll kick some butt.’ ”
Carroll was 13-0 entering Saturday’s Texas playoff quarterfinals, so it’s not like the Dragons desperately needed Ewers. But neither did the Buckeyes, which is why Ewers’ decision looks even less enlightened today. Did the five-star recruit think he would win the starting job this season? Perhaps, like many, he underestimated the abilities of C.J. Stroud. Or was it a pure money grab?
Being more gracious, maybe Ewers figured learning under the tutelage of Ohio State quarterback whisperer Ryan Day was worth selling off his senior season?
Whatever the reasons, things did not go according to plan, unless the plan all along was to transfer back home and apply what he learned under Day to his new team. That seems like a stretch. Ewers could have committed to a Texas school in the first place and saved himself the headache of transferring and having to learn a new system. My hunch is homesickness played a significant role in his decision to leave Columbus.
Regardless, Ohio State deserves some culpability in helping write this unfortunate chapter. Granted, Day was in a tough spot. He risked losing Ewers to another school over the summer if he told the quarterback not to enroll early with the Buckeyes. But knowing that Ewers based his decision largely on NIL opportunities — signaling an orange if not red flag — it behooved Day to protect both OSU’s program and Ewers’ senior season.
The lesson here, for Ohio State and other schools, as well as for mega-marketable recruits, is to insist on finishing what was started. Because a fattened bank account can’t buy high school memories. And sad is the senior scrapbook filled with empty pages.