With the end of the football season closing in, many college football players begin to turn their eyes towards the next level.
For Ohio State walk on safety Jarrod Barnes, the next level is something very different from the National Football League.
A graduate of Westerville (Ohio) South High School, just a short drive from Ohio State, Barnes received a scholarship offer from Louisville to play for the Cardinals and coach Charlie Strong.
“He is just an incredible kid,” said Barnes’ former high school football coach Rocky Pentello. “Not only a good football player, but a really good student. He is a great kid of character in our school and set a good example of what a student-athlete should be. He was a really good role model for our underclassmen.
“He is the kind of kid you get into coaching for. He is the kind of kid you want your daughter to date.”
Barnes graduated in three years from Louisville with a degree in health and human performance before transferring to Ohio State and joining the football team while pursuing his Master’s degree in kinesiology. It was during his time at Louisville however, that Barnes said he started to notice the emphasis and stress put on athletics and he decided he wanted to make an impact.
Barnes began to put together a curriculum specifically designed for student athletes, and even presented that curriculum to NCAA officials in March.
Having appeared in only five games in two years for Ohio State (2015 vs. Rutgers, 2016 vs. BGSU, Rutgers, Maryland, Nebraska), Barnes’ impact on the Buckeyes has been felt off the field. The first Ohio State football player in the history of the program to pursue a Ph.D. while also on the active roster, Barnes’ studies and thoughts are well respected by his peers and coaches, which resulted in a sign being hung up in the Ohio State team meeting room.
That sign reads:
Take ownership every day of your:
• Service Opportunities
-- Jarrod Barnes
“I have been able to do a lot of community service and really have been able to see what separates a lot of young, African-American males from the average population,” said Barnes, who is of African-American descent. “Those are the three biggest signs of successful, young African-American males and I just wanted to share that.”
The sign hangs alongside other placards and posters that feature quotes from athletes like Cris Carter, Kobe Bryant, and even Bible verses.
While his role with the Buckeye football program is not quite what it was at Louisville, Barnes said he is enjoying the impact he is making with Ohio State.
“My role has been a lot different than what it was at Louisville. It has been really humbling, but really good because I have been able to build with a lot of guys and that is really why the sign went up there,” he said. “I am saying this out of humility, but I feel like I have earned a lot of respect in this program because of the way I have acted. I had the chance to get up there and talk about how we are as citizens, not just as football players. Take care of your parents, your education, always give back to the community.”
After being honored on Senior Day prior to Ohio State’s double overtime victory over Michigan, Barnes’ football career is coming to a close. While teammates like Pat Elflein likely prepare for a future in the NFL, Barnes said he is eyeing a much different career path.
“The whole reason I did this, is to show that you can still play football at a high level and achieve academically and create a road map or a path for others who want to do that,” Barnes said. “It is one thing to start it, but I have to finish the Ph.D. That is something big in football, is to finish.
“Long term, I hope to become the secretary of education one day. How I am going to get there, I am not exactly sure, but that is the big picture. I am just trying to find my way.”
If a cabinet position is not in the cards for Barnes, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said he hopes Barnes returns to Columbus.
“I just hope we hire him at some point at this university,” Meyer said. “I love him. I think he is a great role model for a lot of our players. And not just our players, for all of college football. When he speaks, people listen and that is why we (put up the sign).”
An alternate version of this story appeared in the Nov. 19th (Vol. 36, No. 10) edition of Buckeye Sports Bulletin.
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