Music thumped through the Ginn Academy gym as the world waited for Cardale Jones.
Started from the bottom now we’re here…
The song made it through a couple verses before Jones walked through the open door and faced the packed gym and row of cameras. The whole scene felt like a massive production, and every sign pointed to Jones seizing the opportunity to make the leap to the NFL.
Then Jones, as he did throughout December and January with his mammoth arm and steely will, turned those expectations on his head. For all the show that came out of a planned announcement in Cleveland, his declaration was quick and understated.
“My decision was very simple,” he said. “After talking it over with my family, my friends and my coaching staff, I’m going to return next year for school.”
The crowd roared.
“It’s everybody’s dream and goal when they play football or any other collegiate sport to make it to the next level, but at my point in my career I feel like it’s best for me to go back to school,” Jones said. “One of the most important things for me to do is graduate. When I make that decision to play in the NFL, I want to be done with school. I want to devote all my time and all my effort into the film room and getting better at playing the quarterback position.”
His return leaves a muddled picture at the quarterback position for the Buckeyes. As of now, it appears that Ohio State will return all four quarterbacks from this season in addition to Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage four-star quarterback Torrance Gibson and The Plains (Ohio) Athens four-star quarterback Joey Burrow.
Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett is recovering from a right ankle injury that could limit him in spring, and two-time Big Ten MVP Braxton Miller is in the midst of rehabbing a shoulder surgery that could keep him out until fall practice. That leaves Jones to likely split reps with Stephen Collier, who redshirted in 2014, this spring.
Jones told Urban Meyer of his decision Thursday morning and said he received no assurances from the Ohio State head coach that the job would be his if he were to return to Ohio State for a fourth season.
His high school head coach, Ted Ginn Sr., said he didn’t take sides when advising his protégé.
“Follow your mind, follow your heart,” Ginn said. “Do what’s best for you.”
Sitting in a gym where the midcourt logo is a dolphin wearing a graduation cap, Jones said he felt leaving Columbus with a degree was the right move. The maturity with which he handled his newfound fame and weighty decision isn’t an overnight development, but it’s still a stunning turn from where he was when he arrived at Ohio State.
Now, though, he’s there for the long haul. Jones said he won’t go to the NFL until he’s done with school and able to fully devote himself to becoming a better quarterback. He spoke of his dream to one day become a financial planner.
For now, Ohio State will enjoy its riches. It is returning a quarterback who in three games gave the program three rings, a guy who has grown on and off the field in prodigious leaps and bounds.
“Cardale is an anointed kid,” Ginn said. “Everybody wishes they could be that blessed. He just had this opportunity to show it.”
He’ll be back next season to show even more.
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