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INDIANAPOLIS — Justin Fields’ rookie season with the Chicago Bears generated more questions than answers.
In 10 games as the starting quarterback, Fields showed glimpses of his special talent – just think back to fourth-and-1 against the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field.
But there were also times when his 12 fumbles (fourth-most in the league) stalled drives, like in the Monday night game against Minnesota.
Then there were the games against Cleveland and Tampa Bay that displayed the team’s inability to properly devise a successful game plan, which made evaluating Fields nearly impossible.
The recently turned 23-year-old finished his rookie season with 1,870 passing yards on 159 of 270 attempts, seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also added 420 yards on the ground and scored two touchdowns.
Overall, the verdict is still out on Fields.
But to get a better idea of him, CHGO asked a few of his former teammates from Ohio State some questions at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine.
Here is what his college teammates had to say:
Jeremy Ruckert, tight end
While Fields was at Ohio State from 2019-20, Ruckert caught nine touchdowns, with his career-high coming in the 2020 season (5). In their time together, Ruckert and Fields also made their fair share of highlight plays, including this one-handed catch in the 2020 National Championship.
What was it like playing with Fields in Columbus?
“You can tell right away he is a pro,” Ruckert said. “Obviously he has the athletic ability, the talent that you look for in a quarterback. My experience with him is that he went about his business the right way. You kind of knew what you were getting with him. There really 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.”
What is the ceiling for Fields in Year 2?
“I think the sky’s the limit for him, everybody knows that,” Ruckert said. “Like I said before, his talent has always been there. The way that he goes about his business is something that makes him truly special. He’s a pro and you know what you’re getting with him. As he continues to grow and continues to learn, he is only going to get better. I’m excited to watch as a friend but also as a football player, as a football guy.”
Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, Wide Receivers
Olave was Fields’ go-to receiver while they were at Ohio State, catching 99 passes for 1,578 yards and 19 touchdowns. One of their best moments came in the 2021 Allstate Sugar Bowl when Fields threw a 56-yard touchdown to Olave against Clemson.
Olave was asked if he would be excited to play on the same team as Fields in the NFL.
“Oh yeah, definitely,” he 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.”
“Justin is a great player, great dude and I can’t wait to see his career take off,” Olave said.
Wilson was another one of Fields’ favorite targets. The 5-foot-11, 183-pound receiver had 11 touchdown receptions and 1,155 yards on 73 receptions from 2019-20.
Similar to Olave making a big play in the game against Clemson, so did Wilson. Fields showed the trust and chemistry the two have established with this incredible catch along the right sideline.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, Wilson highlighted Fields’ leadership abilities.
“Just his mentality, how he approached coming into Ohio State and took on the role, his new role that he had,” Wilson said. “That’s something that we all noticed, and that’s why you saw him become a captain after that year there. So he’s really a special dude, special on the field as well, but what he did off the field, all of that was real. We all approached that the right way.”
Nick Petit-Frere and Thayer Munford, Offensive Linemen
With the help of Petit-Frere and Munford, Fields was able to throw for a career-high 41 touchdowns in the 2019 season and finished with a career-high 70.2 completion percentage in his final year at Ohio State.
Munford praised Fields for his overall mentality and ability to make plays.
“Playing with Justin he’s more like a team player,” Munford said. “He wants to win and I love him for that. He has always done what is best for the team and for him. So if he got in a horrible situation on the field and the pocket collapsed, he could just roll out, use his athleticism … and throw a dime to Chris or Garrett or whoever is down there. You see it in glimpses in the NFL. That’s him. That’s how he is.”
Petit-Frere was asked about his impression on Fields’ rookie season with the Bears.
“He played hard. I mean that is something we always knew about Justin that like no matter whatever resiliency that he saw, whatever happened to him, that he was going to play hard,” Petit-Frere said. “I know that he loves the Chicago coaching staff. … I know that he has been in long talks with them and working with them to try and figure out what they’re going to do differently … What they’re going to keep the same and things like that.
“All I know is that Justin this entire offseason has been working his butt off this entire time to get himself where he needs to get to. He did that before he got drafted by Chicago, when he was just training for combine and things like that. … My thoughts on his season is that he played as hard as he could. … And I think he created himself as a new staple on that team, and I think that his leadership and how affectionate he is as a person is about to rub off on a lot of people, and is going to change that team.”
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