Dwayne Haskins remembers his first high school start vividly. He faced St. John’s High School in his sophomore season at The Bullis School in Potomac, Maryland, after moving to the state to play high school football.
“I threw three picks that game, so I don’t really like to talk about it,” Haskins said. “But that’s probably the only time I felt nervous.”
Saturday, Haskins will return to the state where he last doubted his football ability, but this time he is the starting quarterback at Ohio State, facing Maryland. And he has the opportunity to secure his place in Ohio State history in College Park, Maryland.
Haskins needs 50 passing yards to break former Ohio State quarterback Joe Germaine’s record for most passing yards thrown in a single season, a record he has held for the past 20 years. Haskins only needs three touchdowns to break former Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett’s record for most passing touchdowns thrown in a campaign.
In his first season as the starting quarterback, Haskins did not think breaking these records would be realistic. But as the records come closer to a reality for the redshirt sophomore, he said it’s a testament to the offense and the game plan in which he was placed.
“I’m looking forward to Saturday and so close to that single-season passing record. It’s been there for a long time, you know,” Haskins said. “It’s crazy to realize how cool that is.”
But his return to Maryland is more than breaking records in front of friends and family, in front of familiar players and coaches. It’s Haskins’ first opportunity to play against the school to which he initially committed.
As Haskins started the recruiting process, he said staying close to home was something that was important to him. He developed relationships with the coaching staff at Maryland, the players and the commits. His future seemed to be set.
Haskins said he wanted to change the stigma at Maryland, to get the top-rated players from the area to go to their in-state school. But he said people made their own decisions and went their separate ways.
Then Haskins’ dream school came calling.
“It’s been everything for me to come to Ohio State,” Haskins said. “It’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid.”
Haskins had to wait his turn, watching Barrett through his tenure and having to battle former Ohio State quarterback Joe Burrow for playing time as the second-string quarterback and then the starting job prior to the 2018 season.
Ever since Haskins took his first snap against Oregon State as the starting quarterback, he said the process of gaining experience, having an idea of what to do when adversity comes, is something that made him a more seasoned quarterback.
But quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Ryan Day saw the unknowns and uncertainties when Barrett left. He saw Haskins as a player without much playing time or experience.
As the 2018 season continued, Day saw Haskins develop into “the guy” for the Ohio State offense.
“I think now he’s battle tested, he’s been through it, and so now you know that he’s been, he’s got some experience on his belt. He has some experience to go upon,” Day said. “You know he’s been hit in the mouth. He’s responded that way. He’s had some success, handled that well.”
To redshirt senior wide receiver Parris Campbell, Haskins, with being battle tested, needs to step up and be that leader of the offense that a quarterback is expected to be.
And this is something that is especially needed at this time in the season.
“We are in a time right now as a team, as an offense where, you know, championships are won in November and we kind of need Dwayne to step up and be the guy he’s been all year, but just take on more of a leadership role,” Campbell said.
Day said he realizes Haskins’ return to Maryland carries some extra weight.
“I do know that once, any time you go back home there is a special feel of that friends and family,” Day said. “So I know that’ll be on his mind.”
Campbell said he’s seen Haskins become more vocal as a leader this week, knowing the stakes of returning home, knowing the stakes of the records he is about to break.
But Haskins really has not felt the stakes when behind center.
Since his initiation into the Ohio State quarterback job against Michigan last season, he’s been described as calm, cool and collected behind center.
As he’s worked as the starting quarterback, gone through adversity, trying to perfect his game, football has come easy to the redshirt sophomore.
“I feel like [the game’s] always been slow,” Haskins said. “Since the first game.”
Haskins will not be focused on his family and friends in the stands. He will not be focused on the records he could break on Saturday against the Terrapins.
He will continue with the same mindset he’s had set since his first high school football game as a sophomore quarterback at The Bullis School.
Haskins will not be doubting himself.