C.J. Stroud sat behind Justin Fields for a year at Ohio State in 2020. Now, after two seasons of lighting up the college world himself, Stroud is ready to enter the NFL. This process for Stroud of course includes a trip to the NFL Combine, where the top prospect was asked about his OSU predecessor during a Friday media session.
“I was so proud of him,” Stroud said regarding Fields’ 2022-23 campaign. “There’s so many times when you get knocked down, but I feel like a true man’s character is when you get knocked down, you get back up. And he’s gotten up every time and he’s stepped up to the plate and he hasn’t blamed nobody, he hasn’t pointed no fingers or anything. That just shows you what type of man he is and what type of family he comes from.”
Stroud also addressed the common criticism of Fields that the Chicago Bears’ QB is over-reliant on his feet: “You get hit so many times in the face, and you have to make plays using your feet. And he ain’t no damn running back. He’s a quarterback. He can sling that rock.”
Last season in Chicago, Fields rushed for 1143 yards (63 yards short of breaking Lamar Jackson’s single-season QB rushing yards record) and eight touchdowns. He also threw for 2242 yards, and 17 TDs.
Interestingly enough, Stroud was also asked about the idea of the Bears drafting him in the upcoming draft, which the 21-year-old dismissed immediately: “I mean, no, I don’t want to go there,” the soon-to-be-rookie said. “That’s his team. I can do my thing. I can go build my legacy. Me and him are brothers for life.”
Rumors of the Bears trading Fields for a haul and then drafting a replacement first overall have floated around this off-season, but 1.) those rumors have largely been shut down by people within and outside of the team’s front office, and 2.) Most of those rumors involve the Bears taking Bryce Young, not Stroud.
The bond between the former Buckeyes clearly runs deep, even two seasons removed from their last season together.
“I’m gonna stand up for my brother every time, and he’s gonna do great things in his career and I’m excited to play with him,” Stroud stated.
There is a decent chance Fields and Stroud square off next season. Three of the teams the Bears play in 2023-24 are teams in need of a new QB who also hold a top-10 draft pick: Las Vegas (seventh), Atlanta (eighth), and Carolina (ninth). Washington (16th), Tampa Bay (19th), and New Orleans (30th) are also in need of a solution at QB, but are likely out of range to pick Stroud.
Ohio State’s history of producing successful NFL QBs is spotty at best, but Fields has done a good job in the past two years alone trying to reverse that trend, and Stroud looks to continue the work of his mentor and friend.