INDIANAPOLIS – Life has moved fast in the last year for C.J. Stroud.
He contemplated just how fast as he discussed his spectacular debut season last fall and the upcoming season, when he hopes to lead Ohio State to a college football national championship, at the Big Ten’s Football Media Days on Wednesday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“It definitely has been quick. I can blink my eyes and and I’m in high school and Covid hit and I’m getting ready for graduation,” Stroud said.
The Buckeyes’ redshirt sophomore quarterback did not win the starting job until last August and had never thrown a pass in a college game when OSU’s 2021 opener against Minnesota kicked off.
He went on to pass for 4,435 yards and 44 touchdowns and was fourth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy when Ohio State finished 11-2.
Those numbers are among the best ever by an OSU quarterback. But Stroud says he’s just scratching the surface.
“I feel like I barely touched my potential. I feel like I could do a lot more. Hopefully God blesses me with that opportunity and I’m working toward it. I always feel I can get better,” he said.
One area where Stroud has already taken a step forward is in the category of leadership, coach Ryan Day said on Wednesday.
“This off-season, he’s really had an edge to him. He’s done a great job with his leadership. Because of that, we’ve had a really good off-season,” Day said.
“C.J. has always had very good leadership skills. He’s always had a voice. But once you go on the field and you show that you can do it, you walk a little differently, and guys look at you through a different lens. I think that’s been the case.
“I think, when you’re young and you go into a season and you haven’t played, you’re just trying to figure out a way to complete that first pass, get that first win, and you’re focused on your job and maybe the offense.”
“This off-season he’s done a great job of taking a bunch of guys over to his house. He’s cooked for them. He’s really approached it like a coach, and that’s what leaders do, and that’s what really good quarterbacks do. For a third-year player to take that kind of approach has been great to see,” he said.
Stroud says leadership has always been part of his game. “I don’t feel different as a leader. Maybe I feel a little more responsibility to lead by example,” he said.
“I think I’m a natural born leader. I think I’ve been called to be a leader, not just in football but as a man of God. It’s nothing new. I was doing this stuff freshman year. It just get talked about a little more now.
“If you ask me what a quarterback is, I would definitely say a leader on and off the field. I would say off the field is probably more important. Leadership is all about trust.”
One of the ways of developing that trust is inviting numerous teammates over to his house for a meal, for games, just to talk or whatever.
“I like to have the dudes over to build trust,” Stroud said.
Some of his teammates have even asked him to provide vocal leadership.
“I’m very vocal. Some times I think I’m too vocal. I try to call my guys out but I also tell them to call me out if I’m doing something wrong. I’m the first one in, the last one out and I watch a lot of film. I have a lot of other things in my leadership ability. Probably the most important one I have is being able to relate to everybody on the team,” Stroud said.
“I don’t like to yell at my linemen but they asked me to yell at them so I kind of get after them a little bit,” he said.
Day also expects a lot from Stroud this year. “He did a lot of great things last year but I think his best football is ahead of him,” he said.