Quarterback C.J. Stroud calls audible, chooses Mercedes over Bentley, talks 2022 Buckeyes

Steve Doerschuk
The Repository

JACKSON TWP. — The No. 1 pick of the 2023 NFL draft (maybe) dreamed a little.

The people at the Sarchione luxury-vehicle dealership in Belden Village handed C.J. Stroud the keys to a $250,000 Rolls Royce. He climbed in and fired it up, right there in the showroom. It gave off a little smoke stream and purred.

He was never leaving with the Rolls. He started it up just for fun.

He wasn't dreaming, though, when he drove off in a $200,000 Mercedes G-Wagon. It was his to keep through Ohio State's 2022 season, as part of an endorsement agreement tied to the name, image and likeness privileges bestowed on college athletes.

The Merdeces was a "game-day decision." Initially Stroud was supposed to drive a $150,000 Bentley Bentayga back to Columbus

Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud was all smiles after taking delivery of his Mercedes at Sarchione Auto Gallery in Jackson Township on Wednesday, June 8, 2022.

Apparently some negotiating took place. When you are a leading candidate to win the 2022 Heisman Trophy as the face man of an Ohio State team seen as a national championship threat, you only have to twist an arm so hard.

Stroud was in the house with Browns linebackers Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Anthony Walker and Jacob Phillips, who also have a relationship with Sarchione.

The 20-year-old Buckeye spent part of the afternoon signing things and saying hellos, then broke for an interview with The Canton Repository.

He came off as a charming fellow who understands that he owes Sarchione something, in exchange for getting something.

Stroud was invisible as an Ohio State freshman in 2020, when Justin Fields threw every pass for a 7-1 Ohio State team in a season assaulted by COVID 19.

He spent those months adjusting to an uproot from the Los Angeles area to a strange and different land. He had never been to Ohio before taking an official recruiting visit.

"I wanted to challenge myself with whatever might be the hardest challenge," he said. "I thought coming to Ohio State would be hard for me. I think It has been hard.

"It's probably been the best decision of my life, coming to Ohio State, becoming a young man, living on my own. Of course I miss family and stuff like that. But I've learned so much. I'll continue to learn more this year."

In 2021, Ohio State named Stroud starting QB over Jack Miller III and Kyle McCord. There were questions about whether he was ready when the Buckeyes lost Game 2, to Oregon.

Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud talks to the media after taking delivery of his Mercedes at Sarchione Auto Gallery in Jackson Township on Wednesday, June 8, 2022.

"I came away from that believing I have God-given talent," Stroud said. "I feel God wouldn't have placed me at Ohio State if I wasn't ready. My teammates have a lot of trust in me. So did my coaches.

"I feel I played well in that game ... of course, not well enough to get the win. But I gave my heart out, and that's all you can ask for."

He won his next eight starts, capped by a monster game against Michigan State (32-of-35, 432 yards, six TDs, no interceptions). After a deflating loss at Michigan, he had a big bowl game against Utah (573 yards, six TDs).

"I felt like a veteran last year, honestly," he said. "I've been playing football a long time. I realize I'm not half as experienced as certain people in our building, but I'm willing to learn everything they can teach me. Our coaches are the veterans I kind of lean on. 

"I don't feel like last year I was, like ... so confident in myself. But I felt I had enough to have a decent season. This year I'm coming in more confident."

Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud talks to the media after taking delivery of his Mercedes at Sarchione Auto Gallery in Jackson Township on Wednesday, June 8, 2022.

The season opens on Sept. 3 against Notre Dame.

"Between now and (summer practice), I'm going to go somewhere and work out," Stroud said. "I had a little vacation time. I went to the Virgin Islands. That was my first vacation I've ever been on. It was an amazing time.

"I don't really believe in vacation. Even on vacation, I try to get in some kind of workout or watch film."

Stroud placed fourth in Heisman Trophy balloting behind Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and Pitt QB Kenny Pickett. The latter two are gone to the NFL. In some minds, a dream national championship game for the upcoming college season would pit Young against Stroud.

"It's very early," Stroud said. "We're still in summer workouts. I think I would be jumping the gun. Something like that is definitely what you're working for. But our first focus is that first game. Right now I feel like I'd like to win 'em all.  Right now ... win every day."

Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud, left, speaks with Cleveland Browns linebacker Jacob Phillips, right, at Sarchione Auto Gallery in Jackson Township on Wednesday, June 8, 2022.

How good can the 2022 Buckeyes be by opening day?

"I don't want to tell the world, so I might keep this to myself," Stroud said. "As long as we handle our business and put in the work, whatever God has planned for us will happen."

Stroud played high school ball in California, for Rancho Cucamonga, about 40 miles east of Los Angeles. He has come a long way already, in more ways than one.

Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud talks to the media after taking delivery of his Mercedes at Sarchione Auto Gallery in Jackson Township on Wednesday, June 8, 2022.

Draft site walterfootball.com projects Stroud going No. 1 overall to the Texans in the 2023 draft.

Stroud isn't the first famous player linked to fancy wheels. Before he joined the Browns in 2019, Odell Beckham Jr. owned a Rolls Royce Phantom valued at more than $400,000. During his Steelers days, Antonio Brown drove a $315,000 Rolls Royce Wraith.

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow's ascent as a marketing star includes an endorsement deal with Lordstown Motors. He is the official spokesman for the Endurance Truck. He also acknowledges owning a Porsche Taycan Supercar and an Acura NSX Supercar.

Stroud is younger than any of them, and he was about to drive a $200,000 car off a Stark County lot, on his way back to Columbus.

Was he nervous?

"I've been driving since I was 9," Stroud said. "I come from California, where you learn to drive in traffic with a lot of people who drive it off the road. So I'm not worried about it."

Reach Steve at steve.doerschuk@cantonrep.com

On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP

Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud was all smiles after taking delivery of his Mercedes at Sarchione Auto Gallery in Jackson Township on Wednesday, June 8, 2022.

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