During a phone conversation between old college rivals last year, a term that Ohio State coach Ryan Day used to describe one of his players made a lasting impression on Bears coach Matt Nagy.
"We were going through a bunch of different players just talking about different guys that he has," Nagy said, "and towards the end of it we were talking about Justin [Fields] and he just mentioned it: 'He's a generational talent.' And it just stuck with me: Generational player. When you hear that, those are strong words."
The Bears were just as impressed with the Ohio State quarterback as Day, watching the 6-3, 227-pound dual threat compile a 20-2 record as a starter the past two seasons. Last Thursday, general manager Ryan Pace deftly traded up nine spots in the first round of the draft to pick Fields at No. 11 overall.
The next day, Day was asked on a Zoom call with the Chicago media about using the word 'generational' to describe Fields.
"I recognized that early on, that Justin Fields has that type of talent," Day said. "That's exactly the word I used when he got [to Ohio State] was 'generational' talent, and I would share those things with Matt when we would talk and he'd come visit."
The two coaches first met as opposing college quarterbacks—Nagy at Delaware and Day at New Hampshire. In a 2000 game, Day helped New Hampshire rally from a 31-3 deficit to stun Delaware 45-44 in overtime.
Nagy and Day have remained in contact throughout the years and will now share something else in common: coaching Fields, a complete quarterback who possesses an ideal combination of size, speed, athleticism and play-making ability.
In each of his two seasons at Ohio State, Fields quarterbacked the Buckeyes to an undefeated regular season, a Big Ten title and a berth in the College Football Playoff while being named Big Ten offensive player of the year and first-team all-conference.
Making 22 starts, Fields 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.
Day expects Fields to make a smooth transition into the NFL.
"The thing I always go back to is he's never not succeeded in his life at what he's set his mind to," Day said. "He was really, really successful at Ohio State. The numbers speak for [themselves]. When that game picks up in the NFL, I'd be shocked if he doesn't pick up really, really fast and make those adjustments.
"Why? Because he can. He's really intelligent. He's really athletic and really competitive. He'll get that really, really fast and they'll train him in those areas. But when he was with us, his decision-making and all that stuff was excellent."
“I recognized that early on, that Justin Fields has that type of [generational] talent.” Ohio State coach Ryan Day
Fields is also known for his toughness; Pace told reporters that on a scale of 1-10, he ranked the quarterback as an 11 in that aspect of the game. The best example came in last season's College Football Playoff semifinal when Fields led Ohio State to a 49-28 win over Clemson, throwing for 385 yards and six touchdowns while playing through a painful injury he sustained on a hard hit.
"In two years he missed maybe just a couple plays," Day said. "And then in that Clemson game, he took one of the more vicious shots I've seen in a long time and then on the first play back, he comes out and throws a touchdown pass to Chris Olave.
"That's his competitive toughness, and when you're projecting somebody into the NFL, you better be tough. You better be physically tough and mentally tough. You're not going to be able to survive in that league if you're not willing to take shots because you're going to take shots."
Fields displayed his mental toughness last year when he rebounded from the only three-interception game of his college career against Indiana to lead Ohio State to three huge wins over rival Michigan, Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game and Clemson in the College Football Playoff.
"I think [overcoming adversity] is one of the most important traits of being successful in the NFL," Day said. "When you think of guys that make it in that league, they can overcome adversity, and he's done that. I thought after the Indiana game, that was a hard game for him to overcome, and then he turns around a couple weeks later and plays the best game of his career against Clemson on the biggest stage in college football, really."
Day believes that Fields' physical and mental toughness stems from the quarterback's personality.
"When you look at Justin, he kind of burns hot on the inside, but you can't always see it," Day said. "He's pretty even-keeled. He doesn't get real emotional; at least you can't see it from the outside. He kind of keeps it close to the vest. [But] you can see he gets motivated quickly, his competitive fire gets lit quickly. I know he's really anxious to get going."
Day is eager to watch Fields play at the next level and lauded the Bears for how well they scouted the star quarterback.
"I've got to give Matt, Ryan Pace and everyone in the Bears organization credit," Day said. "I thought they did an unbelievable job in this process. They have a great staff. I'm excited for the city of Chicago to see Justin Fields. This is going to be a fun time to be a part of it and watch from Columbus. We're all Bears fans now and really happy for Matt and Ryan."
Before heading back home from his first weekend as a Chicago Bear, rookie QB Justin Fields took in a private tour of our home stadium.