C.J. Stroud is still defining his legacy at Ohio State

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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COLUMBUS, Ohio — During C.J. Stroud‘s second trip to New York in as many years as a Heisman Trophy finalist, he noticed his picture on some of the billboards in Times Square and took a moment to reflect.

“I was talking to my mom and my cousins and my brother and my sister who came with me, and who would have thought? Honestly, like, I’m not even supposed to be here,” Stroud said.

Stroud is 21-3 as Ohio State’s starting quarterback. He has collected back-to-back honors as the offensive player of the year in the Big Ten from The Associated Press (he shared it in 2021) and the junior is considered one of the top NFL prospects at his position.

But he’s been on the losing end of both meetings against archrival Michigan and the Buckeyes did not reach the Big Ten title game in either season with him behind center, despite his spectacular numbers. He finished third in the Heisman voting this year after finishing fourth a year ago.

Crucial losses and questions surrounding Ohio State’s offense have lingered around Stroud’s legacy, notably this season amid the absence of playmakers like wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba or TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams at running back due to injuries.

Stroud isn’t putting his head down. He hears the skeptics and said it’s unjust for others to criticize him and his teammates beyond the football field as a result of injuries or an outcome on the scoreboard.

“Of course I take it very serious,” Stroud said. “A lot of people would just watch the game and be on the couch. I live it. Every single day. I’m the one who’s getting laughed at on TV and things like that, and so it’s somewhat unfair that people have that type of opinion.”

Stroud’s place in the Ohio State record books is already well decorated.

The California native moved into the No. 2 spot this season among Ohio State quarterbacks with 81 passing touchdowns and 7,775 yards. Some of that went to the likes of wide receivers such as Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, who became first round NFL draft picks last April, and Marvin Harrison Jr., who caught 12 scores this season.

Harrison said he admires Stroud’s skills and leadership and that he’s “never seen anything like it.”

“We all look to C.J. when things are going good and bad,” Harrison said. “He always rallies us together, whether that’s halftime, we’re down or before the game. He’s always talking to us, making sure that we kind of have the right mindset going into everything.”

Stroud has participated in community events around Ohio State and Columbus that extend his influence beyond the field. On and off the gridiron, Stroud said he is proud of what he’s accomplished.

“I’m so blessed in my life to have so many people I’ve inspired,” Stroud said. “That’s the thing that keeps me going is the kids that I see, and I think that’s why I’m really on this earth and that’s why I have a God-given talent is to inspire kids. Inspire not only kids, but adults as well who want to do great things in their lives.”

No. 4 Ohio State (11-1) got a second chance of sorts and landed in the College Football Playoff, where it will face No. 1 Georgia (13-0) in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 31. The winner will play either TCU or Michigan for the national championship Jan. 9.

Stroud’s relationship with coach Ryan Day has strengthened since the quarterback’s arrival in 2020. Day recruited Stroud, coached him within the quarterbacks room and stood beside him in moments of adversity and triumph, and the Heisman ceremony gave him a chance to reflect on another shining moment.

“He’s given a lot to Ohio State, and certainly that was a great opportunity for me with his family and get recognized for that” Day said Dec. 13. “He’s going to work really hard over the next 2 1/2 weeks to play his best football.”

Stroud thinks the Buckeyes’ semifinal game against the Bulldogs will have “a lot of emotions” and one many have waited for “since last year.” Whether he departs for the NFL afterward is something he has yet to determine.

For now, his time at Ohio State is unfinished – and he has a chance to complete it with a storybook ending.

“I love being a Buckeye,” Stroud said. “No one can take that away from me.”

Vick, Fitzgerald and Suggs among stars on College Football Hall of Fame ballot for 1st time

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Michael Vick, Larry Fitzgerald and Terrell Suggs are among the college football stars who will be considered for induction to the Hall of Fame for the first time this year.

The National Football Foundation released Monday a list of 78 players and nine coaches from major college football who are on the Hall of Fame ballot. There also are 101 players and 32 coaches from lower divisions of college football up for consideration.

Vick, who led Virginia Tech to the BCS championship game against Florida State as a redshirt freshman in 1999, is among the most notable players appearing on the ballot in his first year of eligibility.

Vick finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1999. He played one season of college football before being drafted No. 1 overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001. Vick’s professional career was interrupted when he served 21 months in prison for his involvement in dog fighting.

Fitzgerald was the Heisman runner-up in 2003 to Oklahoma quarterback Jason White. He scored 34 touchdowns in just two seasons at Pitt.

Suggs led the nation in sacks with 24 in 2002 for Arizona State.

The 2024 Hall of Fame class will be chosen by the National Football Foundation’s Honors Court and announced in January. Induction into the Atlanta-based hall is the following December.

Alabama freshman DB Mitchell says he wasn’t sure he’d get to play again after arrest

Mickey Welsh / Advertiser / USA TODAY NETWORK
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama defensive back Tony Mitchell said he feared his football career was over after his arrest on a drug charge.

The Crimson Tide freshman said in a video posted Sunday on social media that he knew “something much bigger could have happened.”

A judge in Holmes County, Florida, sentenced Mitchell to three years of probation with a fine and community service on May 24 after Mitchell pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of more than 20 grams of cannabis.

“I didn’t know if I’d be able to play football again, but I continued to work out and stay close with the Lord and those who love me unconditionally,” Mitchell said. “During those times, it helped me to keep my mind off it. But when I was by myself looking at social media, what everybody had to say about it, it just felt like it happened again.

“I didn’t sleep at night.”

He was suspended from the Alabama team following the arrest, but Mitchell’s father, Tony Sr., posted on Facebook last week that the defensive back had been reinstated. An Alabama spokesman declined to comment on Mitchell’s status.

Tony Mitchell Sr. shared his son’s video on Facebook, saying it was filmed during a talk to youth.

“I was doing things I knew I shouldn’t to try to fit in,” the younger Mitchell said, “but not everybody’s your friend.”

Mitchell, who is from Alabaster, Alabama, was a four-star prospect and the 15th-rated safety in the 247Composite rankings.

He had been charged in March with possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell after a traffic stop when authorities said he drove over 141 mph (227 kph) while trying to evade deputies in the Florida Panhandle. A deputy had spotted Mitchell’s black Dodge Challenger traveling 78 mph (125 kph) in a 55 mph (88 kph) zone on a rural highway north of Bonifay.

He also received 100 hours of community service and paid a fine of $1,560.

Mitchell and a passenger were both charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to sell or deliver, according to a Holmes County Sheriff’s Office arrest report. The other man also was charged with carrying a concealed gun without a permit.