With under a minute remaining in the Fiesta Bowl and Ohio State deep in Clemson territory, Buckeye quarterback Justin Fields fired a strike to the middle of the end zone, except the only person there to catch it was Clemson defensive back Nolan Turner.
Having cut the opposite way of the throw, Ohio State junior wide receiver Chris Olave and Fields’ miscommunication ended the Buckeyes season right there. With an opportunity to redeem the pain of that interception in 2020, Olave is looking to encore his breakout season from 2019. Olave said he still hasn’t gotten over the play but is using it as motivation for the upcoming season.
“It was tough, especially for me. I care so much about this team and this university,” Olave said Tuesday in a conference call. “I don’t think I’ve gotten over it still and I still got that chip on my shoulder and want to show what I can do.”
Olave said that he and Fields have only talked about that fateful play once since it happened and that they’re moving on from it.
“We’re just trying to take a step forward and show the nation what we can do this year,” Olave said.
In the months following the devastating loss, Olave said that he had to put his mind to other things to keep it clear. One of those things was working out, which he said he would do two to three times a day during the pandemic.
With this emphasis on working out, wide receivers coach Brian Hartline said that Olave has made tremendous growth over the offseason, both on and off the field.
“His growth has been phenomenal,” Hartline said. “I love coaching him and we love having him in the room. I’m really excited he gets a chance to play this fall.”
In 2019, Olave caught 48 passes for a team-high 840 yards and 12 touchdowns as he burst onto the scene for the Buckeye offense and became one of Fields’ favorite targets.
Following a season in which he excelled, Olave said the key to improving on his 2019 campaign is to go in with a team-first mindset and that the results will stem from there.
“I feel like I just have to keep getting better every day and just try to help my team the best way that I can,” Olave said. “I feel like when I put the team first, the individual things will come.”
While looking to improve from last season, Hartline said that the next step in Olave’s development is improving his leadership.
“There’s definitely a lot of challenges for him, just learning to become more of a leader and grow,” Hartline said. “He’s doing a great job. He’s maturing. Again, the biggest thing he’s doing well would be leadership in the room and I think he’s really embodied that.”
Olave said that he tends to lead more by example, rather than being outspoken, as he described himself as more of a quiet guy. Despite his quiet demeanor, Olave said that he’s trying to bring more energy to the team with his leadership style.
However, as the COVID-19 pandemic will keep fans out of the stands of Ohio Stadium, Olave said that the team will have to create the energy that is normally provided to them by the fans.
“I know a lot of players feed off of the crowd’s energy,” Olave said. “But we’ve got to bring our own energy and we bring it a lot in practice. Offense and defense, when we make plays we get hyped for each other, and it’s all over the place, so I feel like we’ll be ready when that time comes.”
With the Big Ten’s decision to postpone the season Aug. 11, Olave’s career at Ohio State appeared like it would end with that devastating interception. However, Olave said he remained committed to returning to Ohio State even if the season was not reinstated.
“I would’ve came back. That’s a guarantee,” Olave said. “I feel like I couldn’t leave as that being the last play.”