Fields Grateful For Saturday's Chance

Sports is full of stories about afterthoughts rising to the moment at exactly the right time, and that's kind of what happened for Ohio State and Chris Fields on Saturday. The wideout went from early-season scratch to hero in the win vs. Purdue, and he talks about his road back to the field in this story.

It had been 293 days since Chris Fields caught a pass and 407 since he'd scored his lone touchdown in an Ohio State uniform before Saturday, and as all Buckeye fans know, he couldn't have picked a better time change those facts.

Fields' 2-yard touchdown snag with three seconds left was the first of three game-changing scoring plays as the Buckeyes battled back to post a near-miraculous 29-22 win vs. Purdue in Ohio Stadium.

In the postgame interview room, after having made a trio of critical plays to help keep the Buckeyes' undefeated season alive, the Painesville (Ohio) Harvey product was all smiles.

"I can't believe it," he said. "It's a shocking moment, but I'm so happy for the win. It was a team effort, man. All units, it was a team effort. It was great."

Those smiles came easy after the previous year Fields had lived through, as he'd fallen from potential starting wide receiver to basically an afterthought on the Ohio State team.

Fields saw sparing action in the season opener vs. Miami, then didn't even play in the next three games as the Buckeyes finished up the nonconference slate. At that point, observers had to wonder, would the redshirt junior even be on the team for very much longer?

A number of players – even at his position – had left the team during fall camp and even the early season, and Fields admitted to going through self-doubt as he wallowed deep in a rebuilt receiving corps.

But it wasn't the kind of doubt that left him wondering about where he could go to catch more footballs. The situation gave him perspective, made him realize that there was more to his life than simply trying to make it to the professional level; after all, if he couldn't see the field for the Buckeyes, the NFL was but a pipe dream.

"(My future) did go through my mind, not so much leaving but my future after football," he said. "I would never leave this university. This university is so great, and I would be dumb to leave this wonderful university. I was just thinking about some plans after football and stuff."

That thinking made him realize that while football wouldn't always be there, it still was a major part of his life. Wanting to still make an impact while he had a chance, Fields got to work trying to stand out as the Buckeye coaching staff still searched for depth behind players like Corey Brown and Devin Smith.

Slowly, the playing time started to come together. He played a few plays vs. Michigan State and Nebraska, then was given a few more vs. Indiana. Having played well in his action against the Hoosiers, he was worked even deeper into the game plan against Purdue.

While Fields dropped a potential first-down catch on a third-down play at one point, he still contributed in all facets of the game against the Boilermakers. In addition to the game-winning score, he had two catches on another earlier TD drive – including a 35-yarder to put OSU at the 2-yard line – got on the field as part of a banged up kickoff coverage team and also scooped up Purdue's punt and returned it 9 yards to set up the final, frantic drive with good field position.

"How about that?" offensive coordinator Tom Herman said. "He played well in the few plays that he got last week (vs. Indiana), and we made an emphasis this week that he was going to play more and that he was going to be involved. I wasn't as surprised (at his performance) as maybe everybody else was because we had been planning on him to contribute."

Head coach Urban Meyer pointed to Fields' development as exactly what his program is designed to foster.

"Chris Fields is a product of, I'd like to say, our program," the first-year boss said. "That means three weeks ago he wouldn't have been on the field. But he just changed his whole dynamics, the way he works, his practice habits and his performance. He's earned that right to be on the field.

"It's just that whole systematic approach that we have, and (we're) very proud of him."

Fields – who had a punt return touchdown last year vs. Toledo in addition to eight catches for 114 yards a season ago – knows he has to keep moving forward, and the receiver said that should be possible given the confidence he gained from being a big part of such an important victory as Saturday's.

But for one day Saturday afternoon, he was happy to just enjoy what had just happened after a year of building frustration. If he was in disbelief, well, who could blame him?

"I knew they had a couple of packages in for me that I'd be getting on the field, but I didn't think I was going to get the opportunity to do what I did today," he said. "I'm thankful and I'm grateful."

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