Of all the life-altering moments Cardale Jones has experienced in the last few months - starting his first game as Ohio State’s quarterback, appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated, winning the national title Monday night - none looms larger than the birth of his daughter on November 7. Winning football games is exciting. Becoming a father is transformational.
ESPN says it matured Jones, that he toned down his goofball act following this adorable little thing’s arrival so he could be “his best” for her and his girlfriend. And maybe that’s true, even if it sounds like a classic case of a sports writer finding a turning point where there wasn’t one. What we know without a doubt is that having a baby made Jones responsible for the feeding, clothing, comforting and prosperity of another human being. That’s not to be taken lightly and it’s why Jones should tip his cap to Columbus in the next couple days and declare his intention to enter the NFL draft. It’s not the only reason, but it’s definitely the best reason.
That he’s even able to consider that option, five months after sitting behind Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett on Ohio State’s depth chart, is remarkable enough. That draft experts are projecting him to go as high as the second round is almost unbelievable. But that’s what three games of video game numbers on college football’s biggest stage can do for you. Jones led Ohio State past Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon with a 61 percent completion percentage on 75 pass attempts, 742 yards through the air and five touchdown passes. On the ground, he picked up another 90 yards and a touchdown.
And it wasn’t just the stats. With an arm that belongs in Cape Canaveral and a monster truck running style, Jones is more than physically ready for the NFL. He moves around the pocket with ease and displays a remarkably cool head for a guy thrust into a high pressure situation with little experience. Of course, he’s got more to learn, just like every quarterback whose left college for the NFL. But why not learn on the job from an NFL quarterback coach? Not only would the instruction be better, but refining Jones’ game would be in the financial interest of which ever team drafts him. More importantly, he’ll be getting paid to get better, an opportunity we should all be so lucky to have.
At 22, Jones is older than both Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. He’s older than Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater too. In a league where you’re old at 28 and ancient at 32, Jones can only hope for so many lucrative years. And those are just hopes – nothing in football is guaranteed (just look at the fates of the two quarterbacks ahead on Jones on the depth chart).
Ohio State’s newest folk hero is looking at a guaranteed job with the company he’s wanted to work for his whole life. No one would expect someone in any other profession to pass up that opportunity and we shouldn’t expect a football player to either.
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