Not long ago the thought of the redshirt sophomore starting any games was laughable.
“He could have been a statistic,” head coach Urban Meyer said of Jones.
The coach credited the mentors in the quarterback’s life for helping keep him on the right track and making sure he was putting up statistics and not becoming one.
Since taking over the quarterbacking duties after J.T. Barrett broke a bone in his right ankle, Jones has thrown six touchdown passes on 69 passing attempts, one score every 11.5 passes. The junior entered the season with just three passing yards to his name.
Despite his unpredictable, rapid rise to the starting spot for the first ever CFP National Championship Game, Jones said he is relaxed heading into tonight’s matchup with Oregon.
“You know, pretty calm, cool, collected right now, but as we get closer, you see guys get a little jittery, guys getting a little more antsy just to put the uniform on, and then when the uniform is on, all that goes away,” he said.
In order to make sure he was locked in on preparing for the Ducks, Jones blocked all numbers in his phone that didn’t belong to a coach or his mother, he said. That type of mature decision isn’t something Jones would have done just a few years ago, a time when he was known more for an immature tweet than for anything he had done on the field.
Meyer credited the people in Jones life, some of whom he undoubtedly blocked on his phone this week, for the transformation that has allowed the former Cleveland Glenville star to be ready for the biggest game in college football.
“There could have been a big asterisk next to his name, whatever happened to so and so because he was given the wrong information and given the wrong guidance,” Meyer said. “Instead, they looked and said, what do we need to do Coach, and I said, this is it or it's over, and they said, it's done. Great story.”
The story isn’t over as the 250-pound junior has a chance to end this chapter with a national championship. It would have been easy for Jones to change the narrative, to transfer rather than sit and wait behind Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett, but he said that he knew the right place for him was Ohio State.
“The relationships I developed with not just our coaching staff but our strength staff, and understanding the process in a way it wasn't like I was the best player as a freshman or I was the best player as soon as I walked on campus and I should be playing,” Jones said when asked if he considered transferring. “I understood I wasn't that good. I understood there was things I needed to work on, and with the help of the coaching staff and the strength staff, I was hoping I could be at this point today.”
Today, Jones will be leading the Buckeyes in the national championship, something that seemed unthinkable earlier this year. The quarterback could have been just another player on the Ohio State roster, one who only saw the field in blowouts. Instead, he’s starting in the sport’s biggest game.
“I almost became a statistic,” Jones said. “And I’m not.”