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Can Bears’ Justin Fields be the best Ohio State QB in NFL history?

The only thing keeping Justin Fields from becoming the most decorated Ohio State quarterback chosen in the NFL’s first round is the Bears’ team bus getting him to the stadium on time. It’s that low a bar.

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2019.
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2019.
Jason Szenes, AP Photos

The only thing keeping Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields from becoming the most decorated Ohio State quarterback chosen in the NFL’s first round is the Bears’ team bus getting him to the stadium on time.

It’s that low a bar.

And to be the best NFL quarterback to ever hail from Ohio State — regardless of draft position — Fields merely needs to post a better career than Mike Tomczak, whom the Bears signed as an undrafted free agent in 1985. He started 73 games across 15 NFL seasons.

After his pro day, Fields was asked about the perception that OSU quarterbacks flop in the pros.

“In all honesty, I think I’m different from those guys,” Fields said. “I know my work ethic is unmatched and just my dedication and my passion to [want] to be great is just another level.

“In terms of the past quarterbacks, I can’t control that. Of course the only similarity that me and those guys have is that we wore the same uniforms.”

Here’s a look at the other two first-round picks who wore the same uniform — and the three others drafted in the top 100 during the NFL’s modern era. The list includes two players who ultimately changed positions and a third who is best known for a gambling suspension:

Art Schlichter

Round 1, Pick 4 by the Baltimore Colts in 1982

In college: A four-year starter during the transition from coach Woody Hayes to Earle Bruce, Schlichter finished in the top five in Heisman Trophy voting twice. By his senior season, though, at least three law enforcement agencies were aware of Schlichter’s gambling habit.

In the NFL: Schlichter threw 37 passes as a rookie before becoming the first NFL player in 20 years to be suspended for gambling. By age 23, he owed more money to Baltimore-area bookies — about $400,000 — than he made in his signing bonus. He has spent most of the past decade in jail after being found guilty of federal ticket fraud charges used to finance his gambling habit. He’s expected to be released from jail next month. His NFL resume: six starts, zero wins.

Dwayne Haskins

Round 1, Pick 15 by Washington in 2019

In college: After sitting behind J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, Haskins was named the 2018 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, finishing third in Heisman voting. He led the country with 4,831 passing yards, throwing 50 touchdowns and only eight interceptions in 2018.

In the NFL: Owner Daniel Snyder was infatuated with Haskins and took him over objections by his own coaches. He went 2-5 as a rookie. New coach Ron Rivera benched him in his second season after he made four starts. The team took away his captaincy in December after he committed his second COVID-19 violation, attending a birthday party alongside strippers. The team cut him outright a week later. Haskins, who has a 74.4 passer rating in his two-year career, is the Steelers’ third-stringer.

Tom Tupa

Round 3, Pick 68 by the Phoenix Cardinals in 1988

In college: He threw for 1,786 yards and 15 touchdowns for Bruce’s last OSU team in 1987. He was better-known as a punter, though — he was a consensus All-American at the position in his senior season.

In the NFL: Tupa started 13 games for the Cardinals over his first three seasons, totaling a 59.5 passer rating and going 4-9. It wasn’t until he signed with the Browns in 1994 that he punted full-time. He wound up punting for five franchises during the course of a 14-year career. His quarterback experience made him ideal for fakes, whether as the punter or a field-goal holder. After he threw passes on three fakes during the 1994 season under then-Browns coach Bill Belichick, he earned the nickname “Two-Point Tupa.” He made the 1999 Pro Bowl as a punter.

Bobby Hoying

Round 3, Pick 85 by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1996

In college: A first-team all-conference quarterback as a senior, Hoying threw for 3,269 yards and 29 touchdowns and set program records with a completion percentage (58%) and passing efficiency (163.4). He was the conference leader in total offense. Hoying won 30 of 38 games as a three-year starter.

In the NFL: Hoying didn’t throw a pass as a rookie and was had six starts in 1997, throwing 11 touchdowns and six interceptions. He made seven starts the following season with disastrous results — Hoying threw no touchdowns, a whopping nine interceptions and posted a passer rating of 45.6. He wouldn’t start another game. The Eagles traded him to the Raiders for a sixth-round pick; he threw seven passes over two seasons before retiring.

Terrelle Pryor

Round 3, Pick 18 (No. 78 equivalence)

by the Oakland Raiders in 2011 supplemental draft

In college: In three dazzling years, Pryor threw 57 touchdowns and set a Buckeyes quarterback record with 2,164 rushing yards. He was set to return for his senior season when he was suspended by the NCAA for accepting benefits such as cash and discounted tattoos. The scandal led to coach Jim Tressel’s resignation.

In the NFL: The Raiders took Pryor in the 2011 supplemental draft, forfeiting the No 78 pick in the upcoming 2012 draft — the same third round that would feature Russell Wilson and Nick Foles. Pryor started nine games at quarterback in Year 3 but never did again. He converted to wide receiver and eventually became a one-hit wonder, catching 77 passes for 1,007 yards for the 2016 Browns. He bounced around four teams over the next 2½ years.