Coleridge Bernard Stroud IV stepped onto the podium, squinted into the camera lights and nestled into his seat behind an array of reporters.

Two days before kickoff of the College Football Playoff semifinals, the centerpiece of Ohio State’s media day was none other than its quarterback, a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist and passing record-breaker that the nation knows by two initials: C.J.

As Stroud surveys the scene at the College Football Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta, having led his team to the pinnacle of the sport, there is a tinge of disbelief that he is here—not because of some loss on the field to an archrival, but because of so much more.

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