Bears quarterback Justin Fields received high praise from some of his former Ohio State teammates last week at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
Receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, offensive linemen Taylor Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere and tight end Jeremy Ruckert all raved about Fields as a player and a person during their media sessions.
"You can tell right away he's a pro," Ruckert said. "Obviously, he's got the athletic ability and the talent that you look for in a quarterback, but my experience with him was that he went about his business the right way. You knew what you were getting with him. There wasn't much inconsistency there. He made the right throws all the time and he's just a competitor, and that's what you want in your quarterback."
The Bears traded up nine spots in last year's draft to select Fields at No. 11 overall, captivated by his tantalizing dual-threat ability.
In two seasons at Ohio State in 2019-20, Fields compiled a 20-2 record as a starter. He completed 68.4 percent of his passes for 5,373 yards with 63 touchdowns and nine interceptions while also rushing for 867 yards and 15 TDs on 218 carries.
In each of his two seasons, Fields led the Buckeyes to the Big Ten championship, an undefeated regular season and a berth in the College Football Playoff.
"I love him," said Munford, a four-year starter at Ohio State. "He's always done what's best for the team and for him. If he got into a horrible situation on the field, if the pocket collapses, he could roll out and use his athleticism and throw to Chris or Garrett or whoever's down there. You've seen in the NFL glimpses of it."
"He played hard," said Petit-Frere, a two-year starter for the Buckeyes. "That's something that we always knew about Justin is that whatever [adversity] that he saw or whatever happened to him that he was going to play hard."
Fields developed a strong connection with both Olave and Wilson at Ohio State. Playing two seasons with the Bears quarterback, Olave caught 98 passes for 1,569 yards and 19 touchdowns in 20 games, while Wilson had 73 receptions for 1,155 yards and 11 TDs in 21 contests.
Both receivers were asked at the Combine whether they would welcome a reunion with Fields in the NFL with the Bears.
"Oh yeah, definitely," Olave said. "Having him in college as my quarterback, I know what he can do on and off the field and I know how hard he works. I feel like we're very similar in ways and I feel like we can complement each other if we do end up on the same team."
"If that would happen, that would be awesome," Wilson said. "I haven't really thought about where I'm going to be playing—anywhere would be a blessing—but definitely linking back up with Justin at the NFL level would be a dream come true, for sure."
After beginning his college career at Georgia in 2018, Fields transferred to Ohio State and was immediately accepted by his new teammates.
"How he approached coming into Ohio State and took on the role, his new role that he had, that's something that we all noticed and that's why you saw him be a captain after that year there," Wilson said. "He's a really special dude, special on the field as well, but what he did off the field, all of that was real."
As a sophomore at Ohio State in 2019, Fields was named a Heisman Trophy finalist, Big Ten offensive player of the year and first-team all-conference. He passed for 3,273 yards with 41 touchdowns and three interceptions and rushed for 484 yards and 10 TDs on 137 carries while starting all 14 games.
As a junior in 2020, Fields threw for 2,100 yards with 22 TDs and six interceptions and rushed for 383 yards and 5 TDs on 81 carries while starting all eight games. He led the Buckeyes to a 49-28 win over Clemson in a national semifinal contest, throwing for 385 yards and six touchdowns while playing through a painful injury he incurred via a hard hit.
Fields demonstrated the same playmaking ability and toughness during an up-and-down rookie season with the Bears. Like many others, his former Ohio State teammates expect the young quarterback to take a big leap in Year 2.
"Justin is a great player, great dude, and I can't wait to see his career take off," Olave said.
"I think the sky's the limit for him," Ruckert said. "Everybody knows that. Like I said before, his talent has always been there and the way he goes about his business is something that makes him truly special. He's a pro. You know what you're getting with him. And as he continues to grow and continues to learn, he's only going to get better. I'm excited to watch it as a friend but also as a football [player]."