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The Kid Who Flipped the Script: Why We Could All Learn a Lesson from Cardale Jones

Jones running the show during the Big Ten Championship.

Jones running the show during the Big Ten Championship.

By now, even if you don’t follow college football, you’ve probably heard about Cardale Jones. But if you haven’t, allow me to acquaint you with the kid who accepted his role, waited his turn, overcame a stigma and led the Buckeyes to a title.

Jones attended Glenville High School in Cleveland, Ohio where he played football for Ted Ginn Jr’s dad. He also lettered in basketball and track during his high school years. Upon graduation, his grades weren’t high enough to attend Ohio State right away, so he enrolled at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia prior to enrolling at OSU in January of 2012. He didn’t see the field until this year.

He came into the 2014-2015 season as OSU’s third string QB, and he made his first start against Wisconsin and its #2 ranked defense in the Big Ten title game. In the game, he led Ohio State to a resounding 59-0 victory. The win got Ohio State into the inaugural College Football Playoff. Jones then went on to quarterback Ohio State in historic wins over Alabama and Oregon. He played so well that many analysts recommended that he declare for the NFL draft after playing just three games.

Jones then announced this past Thursday that he would return to Ohio State for another year, even though there is a decent chance that he won’t even be the starter again. As of now, Ohio State has two other immensely talented QBs on its roster in 2014 Heisman finalist J.T. Barrett and two-time Big Ten Player of the Year Braxton Miller.

During all of the events that occurred during his month and a half long whirlwind, Jones kept a level head. He never once let the fame and attention affect him, and he’s in his early twenties. How many kids that age would’ve been able to accomplish that, let alone have the mental fortitude to prepare for the game, bury doubts and dominate?

And even though Jones accomplished so much, so quickly in storybook fashion, his on the field accomplishments aren’t even what impress me most. Jones, thanks to the age of social media, used to be defined by a regrettable tweet that he made as an immature freshman in college. Now things are different.

On October 5, 2012, Jones tweeted this from his account: “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.”

The tweet ignited national criticism. At the time, I thought it was hilarious…and I still do. Mostly because I approached it with a rational approach, realizing that he was a talented freshman football player who struggled with classes throughout high school.

It didn’t surprise me that he felt that way, in fact I felt that way during my freshman year of college and I didn’t even play a sport. If you’ve ever taken a gen-ed class that you don’t care about, you’ve felt the way Jones felt when he tweeted that. It was just an example of an athlete being honest.

But, of course, the majority of media outlets did not approach the tweet rationally. People got on their soap boxes, people were racist, people stereotyped him, and Jones got labeled as the idiotic jock who wasn’t even good enough to start.

Living close to Columbus in Athens, Ohio at the time of the tweet, I was exposed to everyone’s reactions.

Today, people are constantly looking for the next shocking news to break. Employees at media outlets now sit on their devices and vigorously search the web, hoping that someone in a high societal position screws up so they can tweet out a clever joke with a link. Rarely does anyone break news themselves, I would guess that 95% of the news online is recycled. It happened today with CBS’ Greg Anthony.

Journalism has changed, and whether they like to admit it or not, most companies run a publication that more closely resembles a tabloid than a news outlet.

I’m proud of Jones for overcoming the label that was attached to him. His decision to return to OSU shows immense maturity.

He has a baby daughter, and I’m sure the money that looms in the NFL was very enticing. But he sat back, thought about things and decided that he wasn’t emotionally or mentally ready for the NFL. He’ll be back in Columbus next year, and he doesn’t even know how much he’ll get to play. He’s simply trusting his situation.

Jones didn’t care what people thought about him, he stayed humble, displayed extreme rationality, resisted temptation and decided to do what was best for himself.

He flipped the script. Now that dumb back-up QB is turning down millions of dollars in order to better himself. In an age of immediate gratification, Jones decided to put the work in. He’s thinking about the long run.

It’s funny how life works, who would’ve thought that we’d all learn a lesson from the kid who didn’t want to “play school?”

1 Comment »

  1. Great insight! I was indicted by your words and the assumptions I made about Jones’ situation as I read the article.

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