Dwayne Haskins knew how he wanted his future to look — like the Road to Glory mode in the now-extinct NCAA Football video game.
He said he would play the story mode every season, portraying himself as a 6-foot-4, 220-pound quarterback donning No. 7 for Ohio State. And with this quarterback, he won the Heisman Trophy every season he played.
In his first season as the starting quarterback for Ohio State, the numbers the 6-foot-3, 220-pound quarterback has put up have been video game-like, breaking the single-season Big Ten total yards record, the Big Ten single-season touchdowns record, the Big Ten passing yards record and the Big Ten passing touchdowns record.
And now, he has the chance to live the fantasy of the video game he played as a kid after being invited as one of three finalists for the Heisman Trophy, which will be announced on Dec. 8.
Haskins is joined by Alabama sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Oklahoma redshirt junior quarterback Kyler Murray as the three up for the award.
Head coach Urban Meyer, who has traveled to New York for the Heisman ceremony four times, once with former Utah quarterback Alex Smith in 2004 and three times with former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow from 2007-09, had no doubt Haskins was worthy to be considered for college football’s top award after the performances he’s had.
“That’s such an incredible experience for those players, to bring them,” Meyer said. “But he’s going one way or the other. I’ll fly him there myself. With the way he played and the stats against the other quarterbacks, he’s gotta go to New York.”
But in the grand scheme of Haskins’ performance for Ohio State this season, it’s more than just the numbers he recorded, the records he’s broken and the games he’s won. He changed the perception of the Buckeyes’ offense.
Haskins knew who he was as a quarterback. He was never going to be the dual-threat J.T. Barrett was before him, which he told coaches coming into his college career.
“Coming out of high school, I always voiced to coach and whoever the offensive coordinator [was] that I wanted to be in a passing offense,” Haskins said. “Being able to have that change this year and have the blueprint for whoever is playing when I get done playing, just to show that we can throw the ball all over the field.”
That did not seem likely at the beginning of the season, coming into an offense with two former 1,000-yard backs, the typical dream of a coach with a balanced offensive mind such as Meyer.
That thought has not changed for the head coach, saying on Sunday if a particular team can’t run the ball consistently, they will lose at some point.
And, even though he has been placed more in the category of former Florida quarterback Chris Leak and Cardale Jones instead of Barrett and Tebow, Meyer said Haskins has done an excellent job doing anything he could to move the chains.
“How do you measure a quarterback? Obviously wins. Can he get and will he get a first down for you?” Meyer said. “Because once he gets one first down, he will get the next one.”
There was an element of change in the offense that Meyer acknowledged, giving the credit to offensive coordinator Ryan Day. Haskins said Meyer’s trust in him got to a point where the quarterback could attempt a pass in short-yardage situations, something that, with the quick and veteran receivers he had in his arsenal, became the bread and butter of the Ohio State offense.
Haskins said that level of trust took time, crediting both Day and Meyer for putting him in those offensive situations.
“I’m glad I have been able to give him the confidence this year,” Haskins said about Meyer. “I know he can rely on me in tough moments whether that was with a running play or a passing play.”
But Meyer played another important role for Haskins during the 2018 season. While Day primarily put the quarterback in a position to succeed, the head coach continued to keep him grounded.
Despite the success he had over the course of the 2018 season, leading the nation with 4,580 passing yards and Ohio State to the No. 2 passing offense in the country, Haskins said Meyer did not want him to become too “big-headed.”
“He does a great job of keeping me humble and doesn’t really give me too much praise,” Haskins said. “He really wants me to be the best quarterback in the country, whether he voices that to anybody or not.”
But after Haskins’ 499-yard day against Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship, Meyer and Ohio State began vouching for their starting quarterback, beginning his Heisman campaign. Haskins said these were the same players and coaches who helped him to be elite this year.
And that is what Haskins wanted to prove. He feels like he has given enough to be warranted for discussion for Ohio State’s first Heisman winner since Troy Smith in 2006.
“I feel like I did what I needed to do to give my case to win the Heisman,” Haskins said. “It’s not my choice for who gets to win the Heisman, but either way, I just wanted to be considered for it. If I win, I win. If I don’t, it’s getting ready for Washington.”
Meyer said he does have thoughts about what Haskins’ future would look like, saying it would be unfair to him and his family to discuss that at this point.
Haskins might not know either. The Heisman Trophy and the national championship is where the Road to Glory ends in the NCAA Football video game.
But with Haskins as a Heisman finalist, a quarterback who broke Big Ten and Ohio State records and a quarterback who changed the dynamic of the Ohio State offense, who knows? There might be a 6-foot-4, 220-pound My Player wearing No. 7 in a Madden video game Haskins might be preparing to emulate.