Ohio State will honor former quarterback Dwayne Haskins in its spring game Saturday, as the football program mourned the loss of a record-setting player that coach Ryan Day said brought empathy and distinction to the locker room.
Haskins, 24, died Saturday morning after being hit by a dump truck while driving on a South Florida highway. He was training in the area with other Pittsburgh Steelers players.
Haskins played for Ohio State from 2016 to 2018, becoming the Heisman Trophy finalist in his final season while the Big Ten set records for passing yards (4831), touchdown passes (50) and offensive yards (4,939). He then became the first Ohio State quarterback to be drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft since 1982.
“He was 11 years old, and he walked into this facility and he said that’s what I’m going to do, and then he did it,” said Day, who served as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator and quarterback and interim head coach at Ohio State. During Haskins’ last two seasons with the show. “This is the legacy he will leave behind: You can set a dream and a goal and achieve it, and then he broke a lot of records that year in 2018. He set a dream and chased it and he did it.”
Day said plans to honor Haskins, whether for Saturday’s spring game or in the future, are still in progress and will be announced at a later date.
“Bakai’s nation meant a lot to Dwayne,” Day said. “Having everyone there on Saturday is important. We’re going to make sure we do things the right way and then move on, we just want to make sure we do it the right way and think about it well.”
Haskins maintained close relationships with players, coaches, and others in and around the Ohio State program, including Day’s son, RJ Day, who said Haskins took RJ to a high school football game and was “like an older brother” to him.
“We were in the car that day, at a small camp [RJ] He went to and we were walking back trying to wrap our minds around him, and I didn’t have anything good to tell him, really,” said Day. It’s so confusing and sad, but it makes you hug your loved one a little more and only understand how fragile life is.
“But something like that is hard to explain.”
Day said he would miss Haskins’ calm and confident demeanor before games, as it often eased Day’s nerves. Haskins brings a compassionate approach to those around him and a smile that his teammates and coaches will never forget.
His outstanding season in 2018 under Day’s tutelage was also counted as succeeding Urban Mayer as head coach.
“I don’t think any of us would be here, and the program would be in place, without Dwayne the way it all went,” Day said. “That’s life. There are certain moments, defining moments in your career and your life, where things can go one way or the other. In that moment, Dwayne was there and the way he rocked everything during that season, we’re here now, and he was a huge part of that “.
Day spoke with Haskins about “resuming” his career with the Steelers, and believes the team is the perfect place to grow and develop. Although Haskins left Ohio State in early 2019, he has kept in touch with many of the people on the show, including some players.
“I’m now 44, and I don’t know how to feel,” Day said. “Sure, if you’re 18, 19, 20, you’re just having a hard time dealing with all that, and confusing. You try to lean on each other as best you can. What you can’t do is do something or say something that you think will make everything Better. It won’t happen. You have to go through this process.”