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Column: Ryan Day reminds us that the human element is just as important as the playbook

We all could use that reminder sometimes .

Akron v Ohio State Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Once in a while, something happens in the sports world that makes everyone stop what they are doing and react. Recently, it has been on-the-field things like a Tom Brady retirement, a Tom Brady unretirement, and the last Final Four run for Coach K at Duke. The scope of magnitude can range from the relatively small to the undoubtedly monumental. Unfortunately, tragedy is another thing that can unite the attention of large swaths of sports fans.

As we know all know, tragedy struck the sports world on Saturday morning when it was reported that former Ohio State quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Dwayne Haskins lost his life. Haskins was a son, a brother, a husband, a friend, and a teammate and he will be deeply missed.

After the passing of Haskins was announced, the outpouring of support and remembrances came from many different people, fandoms, and organizations; Ohio State head football coach Ryan Day was no different. Day talked about the impact that Haskins had on the team, the program, and on the coach and his family.

Whenever tragedy strikes, people often look to others for comfort and support. Day has been that comfort time and time again for fans and for his players. Sometimes we wonder as outsiders if the persona that we see from coaches and players is legitimate or just a face they put on for TV. However, when it comes to Day, people are quick to confirm that he is the real deal; that he is as kind-hearted and genuine as fans want to believe that he is.

For Ohio State football, it has been a long month. Between the death of Haskins and former offensive lineman Harry Miller announcing that he was retiring from football to focus on his mental health, it has been a needed reminder to fans that no matter how elite they are on the field, athletes are human beings that deal with the same real human issues that we all do.

While they provide great entertainment on the field, as fans we need to be there to support them in their struggles off of the field as much as we do on it.

It has been well noted that Day suffered his own tragedy as a child losing his father to suicide at nine years old. Since he has been at Ohio State, Day has been adamant about the well-being and mental health of all people. Day and his wife Christina have partnered with the organization “On Our Sleeves,” an organization that began at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

This is the part of the statement on the front page of their website.

This topic is deeply meaningful for Christina and Ryan Day. They have been impacted, like so many others, by the loss of a family member to suicide. As a result they are passionate advocates for supporting families, researching new treatments and developing prevention strategies.

Christina and Ryan ask that you to join them in championing this cause. The Christina and Ryan Day Fund for Pediatric and Adolescent Mental Wellness at Nationwide Children’s Hospital will help raise awareness, increase educational opportunities, inspire advocacy, and be a role model for donating to a cause that has historically been ignored.

Day has spent countless hours giving his time and effort to others, and the players on his team are no different. When Miller posted his retirement message to social media, he mentioned that he told Day that he wanted to kill himself and that the coach immediately knew what to do. Day helped his player get in touch with the people who could help him deal with the mental health crisis that he was experiencing at the time.

This is an excerpt from the letter Miller posted on social media:

“I am grateful for the infrastructure coach Day has put in place at Ohio State and I am grateful that he is letting me find a new way to help others in the program. I hope athletic departments around the country do the same. If not for him and the staff, my words would not be a reflection. They would be evidence in a post-mortem.”

While these words cut deep, this is a reality that many people face daily. And Day reacted exactly how you hope that anyone in his situation would. No talk of football or of Harry Miller the player, the focus was on Harry Miller the person, Harry Miller the son, the brother, the friend; all of which are infinitely more important.

Now let's get one thing straight as well. Ryan Day by no means has struggled to produce as the head coach at Ohio State. Since taking over at the helm in 2019, Day is 34-4 overall and 23-1 in the Big Ten. He has won a Rose bowl, coached two Heiman finalists, and participated in two college football playoffs and a national championship game. Not to mention, there is a strong possibility that the Buckeyes start next season ranked No. 1 in the country.

But despite his on-field success, Day has done things off of the field that are more important by putting in place the necessary resources that the student-athletes need to navigate their lives. There is a ton of pressure put on these student-athletes to do well in school, focus on their future, and perform every Saturday in front of 108,000 people.

In a world where mental health issues are more prevalent and talked about than ever, Day has done a phenomenal job thus far of navigating those difficulties. A head coach at a program like Ohio State faces an enormous amount of pressure on the field, but Day has done a great job of helping players like Miller navigate their own mental health while also being a beacon of light in times of tragedy, like with the untimely passing of Dwayne Haskins. Plus, that man can coach with the best of them.

If you are struggling with your own mental health, you can call 800-273-8255 to talk to someone who can help.