Wise beyond his years
Cardale Jones is a remarkable young man.
Anyone who follows college football knows the Ohio State quarterback played remarkably well as he led the Buckeyes to the first-ever College Football Championship title.
But his decision Thursday to return to OSU rather than declare for the National Football League draft was as much a victory for education as it was a victory for the Buckeyes’ football program next season. In many ways, it was even bigger for education.
“I’m going to return next year for school,” he simply told a national television audience and those who gathered at Ginn Academy in Cleveland for the news conference. The reason? He wants to graduate before heading out into the world.
Most – if not all – of the pro football world wondered exactly where Jones would be selected in April’s college draft, never for a moment factoring in the possibility he might just stay in school.
“My education will take me 10 times farther that my athletic ability,” said Jones, who called his decision easy and wondered why everyone was making such a big deal about it.
After knocking off Oregon in the national title game, he as much as said after the game that he wasn’t ready for the NFL. No one took him seriously. He made it clear education came first, then football.
“Football to me is a stepping stone for my education,” he said. “Being a first-round draft pick means nothing to me without my education.” The room at Ginn Academy applauded proudly. And then Jones added, “Anything else?”
Again, how refreshing.
In this day and age where college football is nothing more than a feeder farm for the NFL and a vast majority of the athletes do not graduate and cant wait to get out of school, what Jones did struck a blow for the reason most kids go to college.
It was a great statement and message for the young people who either watched the news conference on television or will read about it and heard about it for at least the next few days.
Tedy Bruschi, commenting on ESPN, went one step further. “That was great for American kids to see,” he said, hoping his children were watching.
Jones said that in the wake of his brilliant trio of games, he understood the hype surrounding the possibility he might turn pro. “I got (the hype) in the beginning,” he said. “I never fed into it. I never let it get to me. I’ve got to think about the long-term jeopardy.”
He understands that when plans for the 2015 season are laid by the Ohio State coaching staff, he will have to compete all over again for the starting spot. “Next year, in my opinion, can be a lot better,” he said.
If that is case, the competition at quarterback in spring football at OSU will be arguably the most interesting story in college football with Jones battling Braxton Miller (if he returns) and J. T Barrett, who should be fully recovered from the broken ankle suffered in the season-ending victory against Michigan.
The incredible three games Jones crafted to gain the attention of the entire collegiate football world should be a non-factor in that competition if coach Urban Meyer keeps his promise of keeping it open.
But you have to figure Meyer will never forget what Jones did to help him win his third national championship and the circumstances under which he accomplished the feat.
Maybe that’s what Jones factored in when he made his decision, not to mention that by coming out now, he had to know his education as a pro would be long term by whoever drafted him because of his brief college resume.
By staying in school, he gives himself an opportunity to continue building on what he did at the end of this season and at the same time complete his education.
“My football and career window is so short,” said Jones, who has designs on becoming a financial planner. “I have my whole life to live and that is where I think my education will come in handy.”
This from a kid who in October 2012 tweeted “Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come to play SCHOOL classes are POINTLESS.”
Quite a comeback.
What the nation saw Thursday was a young man whose head is screwed on right. He is fortunate to have a support group pointing him in the proper direction.
The best ending to this story would be if Jones wins that competition in Columbus in spring, leads the Buckeyes to at least to another shot at the national title and is a first-round selection in the 2016 NFL draft.
In the end, though, education is the big winner. And there ain’t nothing pointless about that.