Imagine a titan of industry – your industry – approaches you and says, “I am willing to give you millions of dollars, under one condition. That condition is: you quit the job you have right now and come work for me.” What would you do? How long would you need to think about it?
If your first inclination is or was to turn down the offer, would you change your mind under any circumstances? What if this specific industry or profession had a limited shelf life and a relatively short window in which to earn life-changing money? That is essentially the decision Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, and a few others are currently facing — albeit with far less risk of alienating their former coworkers and bosses (teammates and coaches).
If Olave and Wilson (“others” are insinuated from here on out) choose to opt out of Ohio State’s Rose Bowl, they are not really quitting on the team. It’s not as if these guys are considering a transfer to TTUN for the CFP. These players would simply be starting preparation for the next stage of their career(s). The relationships formed at OSU, and the achievements and memories made will not be thrown in the trash due a reasonable (and very common) business decision. So if you have a problem with players sitting out bowl games, that’s a “you” problem — not theirs.
Consider the money involved. Trevor Lawrence, picked first overall in the 2021 NFL draft, signed a rookie contract worth $36.8 million. Kadarius Toney (20th overall) signed for $13.7 million, Rich Grant (40th) for $8.3 million, Elijah Molden (100th) for $4.8 million, and Brandin Echols (200th) for $3.7 million. Now, if you follow the NFL, you know that these dollar figures are fake. Theoretical money. The guarantees fall off significantly after the first round, which is why Echols is only guaranteed $174,000 — roughly five percent of the total contract value. All of that being said, the upside is very high for the current Buckeye receivers. They are likely first rounders as it stands today.
Now consider the risk. It is highly unlikely that Olave or Wilson would be “exposed” by Utah. They are two of the best receivers in the country, and they’ve proven it against the toughest competition. But injury risk is something entirely different. If Olave or Wilson were to sprain an ankle or tweak a hammy, no big deal. However, a torn ligament or broken foot could lead to a precipitous drop in their draft stock.
Buckeye fans likely remember Willis McGahee’s severe injury suffered in the 2002 BCS National Championship. He entered the draft immediately after, and was fortunate to only slide down to the 23rd pick. He was projected by some to go top-5 before the injury. A knee injury such as his could have led to him dropping into the third or fourth round, and as previously pointed out, the disparity between picks 5, 10, 20, 40, and beyond is significant.
There is injury risk for football players getting out of bed in the morning, stretching, practicing, or playing in a competitive game – and I don’t foresee any or many players opting out of a title game like McGahee could have – but the Rose Bowl presents risk without the reward of a CFB National Championship.
But maybe Olave and Wilson do stick around for the Rose Bowl. That doesn’t make it a bad business decision either. These players have put in literal blood, sweat, and tears with the program. Ryan Day and his staff (and Urban Meyer before them) built relationships with these guys and helped develop them as football players and men. The brotherhood that Ohio State players speak of will always be there, but this game is potentially the last opportunity Olave and Wilson will have to share the field with their “brothers”.
There is also opportunity to increase their draft stock even more. Olave, in particular, was often the third option in this year’s passing game. He set the OSU record for career touchdown catches, but failed to reach 1,000 yards during the regular season. His name is probably written in pencil in many first-round mock drafts, but an impressive performance in the Rose Bowl could leave a fresh memory in the minds of scouts and coaches. The financial benefit of jumping from 25 to 18 is the cost of a house to you or I.
Wilson’s name has steadily climbed up draft boards in recent months, but a few picks here or there could make a big difference. The New Orleans Saints currently sit at 11, and the Browns are projected to pick 16. Would you rather go to New Orleans with a host of other Buckeyes and Sean Payton, or Cleveland with a putrid quarterback situation? I’m anti-Browns, so no apologies for the shrapnel damage there.
Whether Olave, Wilson, and/or others stick around for the Rose Bowl or leave, they deserve nothing but respect and admiration from Ohio State fans. They have contributed to incredible highs and very few lows during their time(s) in Columbus. Two CFP appearances, at least two Big Ten titles each, and countless other achievements. All of these players, Olave and Wilson being the most prominent ones, will make the right decision for themselves and their families.
Would we love to have the entire active roster for the Rose Bowl? Absolutely. Will we? Maybe, maybe not. But the Buckeyes on the field will represent this program to the best of their ability, and players who opted out will be pulling for them. We should do the same, for all of the above, in all their future endeavors. Go Bucks!