Quarterback C.J. Stroud wore his usual No. 7 uniform number when he led the offense on the first series of Ohio State’s spring game on Saturday afternoon.
But he showed one different look.
The nameplate on the back of his jersey contained “Haskins Jr.” in order to recognize Dwayne Haskins, the former Buckeyes passer who died in a highway accident in South Florida last week.
“I feel like that’s a big brother of mine,” Stroud said, “and I wanted to honor him.”
Wearing Haskins’ jersey for the opening drive of the scrimmage, Stroud led his group into the end zone.
With possession at the defense’s 29-yard line and facing a second-and-11, Stroud faked a handoff to running back Miyan Williams before floating a pass to Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who sprang along the right sideline after pulling in the catch and dove toward the pylon for a score.
The moment was meaningful to Stroud as he noted it was the last time Haskins’ No. 7 jersey would be worn in action at Ohio Stadium. Following the first drive, he switched to his own No. 7 jersey.
“I thought it would be important for him to go out the right way,” Stroud said, “so I’m glad his last play at the ‘Shoe was a touchdown. I’m excited for that.”
Since growing up in Southern California’s Inland Empire, Stroud had looked up to Haskins and said he also found him influential as a young Black quarterback.
“He’s just an inspiration,” he said. “He always has been. I even watched him in high school. I used to watch the Elite 11 documentaries all the time. He was one of those dudes on that. So I watched him in that, looked up his highlights after and just went from there and started studying his career. He’s just a big-time player, a big-time dude. Not only on the field, but off as well.”
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In a phone interview with The Columbus Dispatch earlier this week, his mother, Kim, said Haskins offered Stroud advice and encouragement throughout last season.
“I definitely think Dwayne was a great human being first and foremost” Stroud said, “and he definitely left a legacy. He changed the culture of quarterback here throwing for 50 passing touchdowns. That’s what intrigued me to come here for sure, and then Justin (Fields) stamping that the next year. Dwayne’s legacy will live on.”
Stroud’s tribute was among several paid to Haskins during the spring game.
A moment of silence was held ahead of kickoff, and a video tribute followed at the end of the second quarter.
Before heading into the locker room for halftime, Buckeyes coaches, players and staff personnel remained on the field to watch.
It was an emotional scene as “See You Again,” the 2015 hit by Wiz Khalifa, played along with the video.
With the team huddled at the 25-yard line, Kamryn Babb, a receiver who was a team captain, appeared to lead the team in prayer once the tribute ended.
Players also wore “DH” decals on their helmets, while Haskins’ initials were added to the field inside the 10-yard line in the southeast end of the stadium.
Joey Kaufman covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @joeyrkaufman.