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Football: Haskins blossoms into Heisman finalist

Dwayne Haskins (7) drops back to pass behind Brandon Bowen (76) and Michael Jordan (73) in Ohio’ State’s game against TCU. Ohio State won the game 40-28. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

Dwayne Haskins has a ritual he goes through before each game he plays.

The redshirt sophomore quarterback said he gets a text from his father each morning containing a Bible scripture and reads that. He said he calls his pastor before every game to pray. He said he prays with sophomore safety Brendon White before each game.

This is what gave Haskins his mindset before each game he plays in.

“It’s really about having faith and knowing that no matter what happens in the game or in life that you have God at the end of the day,” Haskins said. “Just knowing you are going to play football. It’s a game, just have fun with it.”

Haskins started at the beginning of the season with a quiet confidence, as a pro-style quarterback trying to find his way to navigate head coach Urban Meyer’s spread offense. As the season continued, as records began to be broken, both at the school and conference level, the confidence blossomed.

After Ohio State celebrated its second-straight Big Ten championship and prepares for a Rose Bowl matchup against Washington, Haskins has something to look forward to. This time, it’s not team related.

Haskins is one of three finalists for the Heisman Trophy, awarded each season to the top college football player in the country. Haskins has travelled to New York for the ceremony along with Alabama sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Oklahoma redshirt junior quarterback Kyler Murray, all three first-time starters at their respective programs.

For Haskins, he will end the 2018 season where he started: with three players vying for one thing.

Haskins battled for the Ohio State starting quarterback job in the spring with redshirt freshman Tate Martell and redshirt junior Joe Burrow, a battle the redshirt sophomore confidently admitted he knew he was going to win.

“I knew I was going to be the guy. It was just a matter of time before they made the decision,” Haskins said. “My family calls it prophesying and I was going to come to school here at 10 years old, I knew I was going to be quarterback here, knew I was going to do great things this year. I speak everything into existence. It’s possible.”

As Martell stepped into the role he had previously held and Burrow transferred to LSU, Haskins thrived, leading the country with 4,580 passing yards and 47 passing touchdowns, seven more than Murray and 10 more than Tagovailoa.

With Haskins at the helm, Ohio State went from leading the Big Ten in rushing in 2017, to leading the conference in passing, averaging 373 passing yards per game, No. 2 in the country behind Washington State.

But Haskins did not make his national mark until the final two games of the season, the two games Ohio State tried to make a statement in to sneak into the College Football Playoff as the No. 4 seed.

After a six-touchdown performance against the No. 1 defense in the country in Ohio State’s 62-39 drubbing of then-No. 4 Michigan, the redshirt sophomore quarterback completed 34-of-41 pass attempts for an Ohio State record 499 yards, throwing five touchdowns against Northwestern in the Big Ten championship.

“It’s surreal,” Haskins said. “To say that it would happen to this detail, I wouldn’t say that. I knew that it was possible and I had to put the work in to go do it.”

That win secured his trip to New York, becoming one of the three finalists for the nation’s top college football award, an award redshirt senior wide receiver Parris Campbell thought he proved to be in the category for all season.

“Just his talent, it’s indescribable. He’s blessed, but he really became into a leader throughout the season,” Campbell said. “He’s worked his nuts off, man.”  

The Heisman is something Haskins believes is achievable, saying after the Big Ten Championship he has “a pretty good shot” at.

But for Haskins, it’s not only because of his abilities. It’s in the abilities of the players around him. It’s the trust developed through offseason workouts, it’s throwing late into the night at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, developing a rapport with each of his receivers.

Haskins will tell you the success of the season was not about his individual accolades, using his abilities to change an Ohio State offense that was very run-heavy to one of the best passing offenses in the nation.

It was about developing a cohesion as a team, as a unit, a cohesion that learned from every game that was played.

“We grabbed each learning experience from each game and then applied it to the next,” Haskins said. “And seeing them go to work last week and then this week, we are putting it all together. I’m just very proud of everyone.”

Freshman quarterback Matthew Baldwin watched Haskins, throughout the season, through the highs like the win against Penn State and Michigan, and the lows like the loss to Purdue. He said Haskins just exudes confidence, something he hopes to emulate.

“Dwyane has an elite level of confidence in himself and it’s for a good reason: it’s because he’s an elite player,” Baldwin said. “He’ll take any shot he thinks he can make.”

Haskins has at least one more game with Ohio State, saying he will play in the Rose Bowl no matter what decision he makes regarding his professional career, something he said will come after the game against Washington.

But his approach remained the same. The routine remained the same, something he likely will take with him to Pasadena, California no matter if he wins the Heisman or not.

“I took it day by day and all season and just [made] the most of it this year,” Haskins said.

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