Will the Rose Bowl be Dwayne Haskins’ last game in an Ohio State uniform?
The record-setting quarterback won’t say, but he’s handled questions about his future as well as he did Michigan’s No. 1-ranked defense: Flawlessly.
Not only that, the Big Ten’s most valuable player and offensive player of the year didn’t even take the credit for his interview aplomb.
“I feel like my parents did a great job of raising me and teaching me I have to be in the now,” he said. "Of course it’s great to have a future plan and know how to get to where you want to be, but it takes work to get there.”
Haskins has thrown for a Big Ten single-season record 4,580 yards and 47 touchdowns, including 396 yards and six touchdowns against Michigan.
He added 499 yards and five touchdowns in the Big Ten championship game against Northwestern and finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting.
That leaves the third-year sophomore with an enviable choice: Enter the NFL draft, where he is likely to be the first Big Ten quarterback taken in the first round since Kerry Collins of Penn State in 1995, or return to school to take aim at a national championship and that famous bronze stiff-arm trophy.
“Just to be considered for the NFL or to be considered one of the top quarterbacks on the board, I’ve been working at this since I was 8 years old,” Haskins said. “So right now I’m the Ohio State quarterback, and that’s where I want to be and that’s what I’m going to do and that’s what I’m going to practice for. I’m not worried about being the first pick or being the first quarterback taken because that will all come in due time.”
Although Haskins was born in New Jersey and went to high school in Maryland, he grew up wanting to be the next Troy Smith.
He will enter the Rose Bowl against Washington on Jan. 1 with a good chance to break Smith’s Big Ten record career record for pass efficiency, and he acknowledged leaving Columbus after only three years won’t be easy — if that’s what he ends up doing.
“Extremely hard,” Haskins said. “It’s been a dream of mine to play here for a long time and it’s been a blessing to be a part of this team, part of this university, part of my teammates and that will be a hard decision to make, but I’ve just decided to finish off the season strong.”
Two of his receivers who will be heading to the NFL next season (both are out of eligibility) see Haskins as ready to go pro whether he decides to do so or not.
“I think he’s ready, but it’s still something you’ve got to sit down and talk to your parents, talk to God about, because it is a tough situation leaving a place like this, having to go into the real world where anything can happen at any moment,” Johnnie Dixon said.
Meanwhile, receiver Parris Campbell said he’s seen Haskins go back and forth on what he should do.
“He's definitely going through kind of a roller coaster of a decision,” Campbell said. "One day it's yes, one day it's no, one day it's maybe. That's a decision he has to sit down, look at himself in the mirror, write the pros and cons, involve his family and go from there. Obviously, it's a tough decision, especially when you're part of a university like this. There are a lot of variables. It's a tough decision. I was in the same place last year. It's just a lot to think about.”
As far as playing in the Rose Bowl, Haskins said that was never a doubt even though players skipping bowls to get started on draft prep and avoid the risk of injury is a growing trend that now includes the first high-profile quarterback to do so, West Virginia’s Will Grier.
“I was surprised people asked me that question,” Haskins said, “but people do skip bowl games nowadays.”
Although he was not asked specifically about Grier’s decision, Haskins confirmed his view the situation is different for a quarterback.
“For one, the offense revolves around you,” Haskins said. "Secondly, the game plan revolves around you. I go into the Woody (Hayes Athletic Center) every day to talk to our coaches about the game plan every week, and I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t play in this game. So I had to play.”
Everything prospective pros do is scrutinized these days, and that is only heightened for quarterbacks who are expected to be the face of a franchise for years to come.
However, Haskins said his decision to play had nothing to do with any concern deciding to sit out could be used against him in the draft process.
“I really wouldn’t care what people would say if I didn’t want to play in the game or not because people are going to have their opinion anyway, but as far as playing for my teammates, playing for (Coach Urban) Meyer, playing for (Coach Ryan) Day and the rest of our coaches, there was no way I wasn’t going to play in the game because I love those guys and I would do anything for them. So if I could do my best to help win that game, I was going to be a part of it.”