A graduate’s yellow tassel dangled from his cap as he danced onto the stadium field with his diploma. Another member of Ohio State University’s Class of 2023 spread her arms in joy, red tassels bouncing.
Behind him, Justin Fields approached midfield from the north end zone. He had undoubtedly spent more time in this area than either of them. But instead of ending up for one of the 579 passes he tried as a Buckeye, this time Fields caught a different leather in his right hand. The case was red.
Inside it, a diploma announced: The Ohio State University awards Justin Skyler Fields a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Ecology.
Chicago Bears starting quarterback have completed their degree in consumer and family financial services.
Fields knew when the Bears selected him in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, 11th overall, that he wanted to complete his degree “as soon as possible”. He has now through online classes during the last two sessions.
“It means a lot,” Fields told Yahoo Sports, “especially with the promise I made to my father.”
Bears associates considered Fields’ commitment to juggling between his professional responsibilities and the limelight.
Offensive coordinator Luke Gatesy told Yahoo Sports, “He’s got this football organization, this team, this city, all eyes on him.” “The fact that he was able to make sure to take some time off and felt it was important to get that degree shows the kind of man he is and the kind of discipline he has — the kind The focus is on him.” Accomplishing the things that are important to him.
How Justin Fields Completed His Degree
Bears team president Kevin Warren said it would have felt different if the ceremony had taken place at the Buckeyes’ basketball arena or the campus auditorium.
But on the football field?
“Unrealistic,” Warren told Yahoo Sports.
Warren was named Big Ten commissioner in 2019 as Fields prepared to start his first game for Ohio State. After Warren’s tenure officially began in 2020, Fields led the Buckeyes to another straight College Football Playoff berth and this time, the championship game.
So it wasn’t long before Field was leading the way to victories over the likes of Wisconsin and Penn State on this field. Nor was it long before Warren was present for Fields’ athletic feats. On May 7, now in his new position in the Bears’ front office, he was present again as Fields was introduced to his teammates.
“Will Donald Pope-Davies, Dean of the College of Education and Human Ecology, and degree candidate in the College of Education and Human Ecology, please rise and stand?” Executive Vice President and Provost Melissa Gilliam made the announcement.
Fields’ candidacy began on January 4, 2019 when the then-Georgia Bulldogs quarterback announced that he had “decided to transfer to The Ohio State University, where I will continue to earn my undergraduate degree and play football for the Buckeyes. “
Over the next two years, Fields would throw for 5,373 yards, 63 touchdowns, and just nine interceptions. He rushed for 867 yards and 15 scores.
Concurrently, Fields perfected the details of how people and businesses analyze complex financial concepts, data, and policies. He enjoyed his entrepreneurship and statistics classes the most. And when he announced on January 18, 2021, that he was forgoing his senior year to enter the NFL Draft, the athletic department’s 27-year-old degree completion program was set to serve its purpose.
Field applied to and was accepted to a program that serves student-athletes who are within 30 semester hours of graduation and have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.0.
Casey King, executive director of Ohio State’s Office of Student Athlete Support Services, said academic advisors guide program members to first prioritize classes that require in-person attendance. This lowers the barriers to degree completion for students such as Fields, who completed their requirements entirely online after meeting their eligibility.
“Your body is only as good as it can be, right? It’s part of the reality of being a professional athlete,” King, a senior associate athletic director, told Yahoo Sports. “So if it’s the moment in time where your body is ready to engage in that event, do it. Let’s protect your brain. Let’s take care of it. And we’ll be here for you.”
“We want you to end it when it makes sense in your life experience.”
Fields became the 99th football player to graduate through Ohio State’s degree completion program, the 25th in the previous decade. Since its 1994 inception, across all sports, 241 athletes have completed their degrees through the program.
King said that Fields’ early finish “felt almost as if he had never left, and I think the momentum was able to carry him.” Fields nevertheless skipped classes during his two NFL seasons.
“Took all classes during the off-season,” he said, “so I didn’t have to worry about balancing preparation with what came during the season.”
‘Another data point about who Justin Fields is’
Even the start function was efficient. The ceremony began in the afternoon. He walked off the field with his diploma just before 3:30 p.m.
“Touchdowns are cool,” Fields’ father Pablo captioned a photo of him at the start, “but this would make a dad proud.”
Fields and Warren fly back to Chicago at 6:15 p.m.
Warren said, “He wanted to fly back to Chicago so he could get to Halas Hall on Monday for his offseason training and preparation for the season.” “To be able to operate him and how businesslike he was and excited and excited and to see his family, but then within three hours of getting his diploma to go back to Chicago to go to work for him to board a plane?
“He’s the kind of person you win world championships with – who you win a lot of football games with.”
A world championship looks unlikely this season for the Bears, whose 3-14 record last season was the worst in the NFL. And yet, Fields’ personal trajectory is pointing upward. His passer efficiency rating rose from 31st (73.2) to 25th (85.2) in his second professional year. He rebounded from the 55 sacks he took (tied for most in the league), building on his plays amid shallow weapons and shoddy defense. While no player bested Fields’ 7.1 yards per carry, his 1,143 rushing yards also tied for seventh-most in the league. And no other quarterback even hit that range, runners-up Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen rushing for 764 and 762 yards, respectively.
The Bears could opt to use the first overall draft pick this spring to start fresh at quarterback, with the benefit of more salary cap-friendly rookie contract years. Instead, he doubled down on his faith in Fields and traded the pick to the Carolina Panthers, netting No. 1 wide receiver DJ Moore in exchange. The Bears also upgraded their offensive line talent, signing guard Nate Davis in free agency and drafting tackle Darnell Wright with the 10th overall pick.
Gatesy is excited about the steps Fields is taking, the safety adjustments and defensive tackles that are coming more naturally as Fields enters his second year on offense.
his degree is complete; Professional goals, far from it.
And yet, Bears colleagues view Fields’ graduation as a symbol of the commitment he shows to all endeavors, including the team. “Just one more data point about who Justin Fields is,” Warren says, “and what makes him so special.”
Field is also another data point for NFL players, including quarterbacks and first-rounders, considering whether or not to complete their degree while playing professionally. His message for those wondering?
Fields said, “If that’s your goal, make sure you accomplish it.” “And try to get it done while you’re young.”