Justin Fields, one of the top quarterback prospects in this year’s draft and therefore a potential target for the New England Patriots, has confirmed to teams that he is managing epilepsy per a report by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero. Despite the diagnosis, though, the 22-year-old has not had any recent issues with the neurological disorder.
Fields has taken medication to treat the illness, but it has reportedly not impacted him on the field — something Ohio State head coach Ryan Day basically confirmed in a statement released on social media on Wednesday.
“Justin’s health, toughness and work ethic have never been an issue and I am incredibly proud of his professionalism and the character he displays on and off the field,” Day said about his team’s former starting quarterback. “The fact that he never missed a game at Ohio State speaks volumes about how he takes care of himself.”
Epilepsy, in basic terms, is a neurological disorder caused by irregular electrical activity in the brain. As a result, seizures and other sensory disturbances can take place. The CDC estimates that there are around 3.4 million people nationwide who are living with epilepsy.
In Fields’ case, he has been taking medication and there is a belief that he might outgrow the issue at one point in his 20s as other family members of his have. His symptoms have reportedly been shorter and less frequent over the past few years — possibly a result of this outgrowing process in combination with medication and a change to a vegan diet in 2019 — and should not be an issue entering the NFL.
As noted in the statement by Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day, Fields has also not missed a game due to his epilepsy. Along the way he also posted some impressive numbers in two years as the team’s starter: starting all 22 games he appeared in, Fields completed 68.4 percent of his throws for 5,373 yards as well as 63 touchdowns and just 9 interceptions. He also scored 15 rushing touchdowns over the last two seasons.
Fields would not be the first NFL player dealing with epilepsy. The most prominent example is former offensive lineman Alan Faneca, who took medication throughout his career but still managed to build a Hall of Fame résumé.
In the aftermath of the reports about the young QB, Faneca took to social media to share his support.
“If I did it, so can Justin Fields, and so can anyone else. It is part of us, but does not define us,” the Faneca wrote.
At the end of the day, the diagnosis should neither impact Fields’ performance upon entering the NFL nor his status as a top-four quarterback in this year’s draft and likely top-10 pick when all is said and done. As for the Patriots they might have to trade up to position themselves to select him, but they have been actively scouting him during both his Pro Days in Columbus.