Ohio State will honor former quarterback Dwayne Haskins at Saturday's spring game, as the football program grieves the loss of a record-setting player who coach Ryan Day said brought compassion and excellence to the locker room.
Haskins, 24, died Saturday morning after being struck by a dump truck while walking on a South Florida highway. He had been training in the area with other Pittsburgh Steelers players.
Haskins played for Ohio State from 2016 to 2018, becoming a Heisman Trophy finalist in his final season while setting Big Ten records for passing yards (4,831), touchdown passes (50) and total offensive yards (4,939). He then became the first Ohio State quarterback drafted in the first round of the NFL draft since 1982.
"He was 11 years old, walking through this facility and said that, 'This is what I'm going to do,' and then did it," said Day, who served as Ohio State's offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach and interim head coach during Haskins' final two seasons with the program. "That's the legacy he's going to leave behind: You can set a dream and goal and achieve it, and then broke a lot of records that year in 2018. He set a dream and he chased it and he did it."
Day said plans to honor Haskins, both at Saturday's spring game and in the future, are still being finalized and will be announced later.
"Buckeye nation meant a lot to Dwayne," Day said. "Having everybody there on Saturday is significant. And we'll make sure we do things the right way and then moving forward, we just want to make sure we do it the right way and think it through."
Haskins maintained close relationships with players, coaches and others in and around Ohio State's program, including Day's son, RJ Day, who said Haskins took RJ to a high school football game and was "like a big brother" to him.
"We were in the car the other day, up at a little camp that [RJ] went to and we were driving back and trying to wrap our minds around it, and I didn't really have anything good to tell him, really," Day said. "I couldn't quite understand what to think of it all. It just very confusing, sad, but it makes you hug your loved ones a little bit more and just understand how fragile life is.
"But something like this is difficult to explain."
Day said he will miss Haskins' calm and confident demeanor before games, as he would often ease Day's nerves. Haskins brought a compassionate approach to those around him and a smile that his teammates and coaches will never forget.
His breakout season in 2018 under Day's tutelage factored into Day succeeding Urban Meyer as head coach.
"I don't think any of us would be here, and the program would be where it is, without Dwayne in the way that it all happened," 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 everything shook out during that season, we're here now, and he was a major part of that."
Day had spoken with Haskins about a "restart" to his career with the Steelers, and thought the team was the perfect place for the quarterback to grow and develop. Although Haskins left Ohio State in early 2019, he remained in contact with many people in the program, including some players.
"I'm 44 years old now, and I don't know how to feel," Day said. "Certainly if you're 18, 19, 20 years old, you're just having a hard time with it all, confusing. You try to lean on each other the best you can. What you can't do is do something or say something you think is going to make it all better. It's not going to happen. You have to go through the process."