Five-star or no-star, every recruit takes a different path to their time in the limelight at Ohio State.
The one thing most people know about Ohio State's newest starting quarterback is not flattering. In October 2012, Cardale Jones made the less-than-wise decision to take his frustration with classes to Twitter.
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— Cardale Jones (@cordale10) November 29, 2014
Although that is not Jones' original Tweet – he now tweets from a new account – it is a replica of the statement that has been used ever since to paint Jones as a quintessential "dumb jock." No amount of scrubbing can ever erase the stain of Jones' tweet from the memories of internet trolls and haters, but this weekend will provide the 6-foot-5, 250-pounder a chance to indemnify himself to his Ohio State teammates for any residual embarrassment he may have caused them.
Jones arrived at Ohio State in January of 2012, coming to the Buckeyes from Fork Union Military Academy via Glenville High School in Cleveland. Jones, a former Tarblooder quarterback, initially committed to the Buckeyes on signing day in 2011. According to former mgoblog.com and current ESPN.com writer Tom Van Haaren, Jones was a Michigan fan in his early years.
He told me he actually grew up a MIchigan fan, and he really likes the Wolverines. His words were, "I was a huge fan of them growing up, and now I have a chance to play for them, so what's not to like?" - MGoBlog, June 3rd, 2010
In his two years at the helm for Glenville, Jones put together a 13-2 season in 2009 (a state title game appearance led to a final state-ranking of No. 3) and a 10-1 record in 2010. Often mislabeled as a "dual-threat" quarterback because of athletic ability, Jones was 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds when he was ranked as the country's 10th-ranked pro-style quarterback by 247Sports.com.
Jones finished his Glenville career with 3,857 yards passing and tossed 40 touchdowns. He also ran for 14 touchdowns in his two years as a starter. Nimble feet? Jones had them, but where he got them might surprise you: ballet.
That's right: the hope of the 2014 Buckeyes' football season turned to pointe shoes instead of cleats as he entered high school, opting for a career that involved less contact than what football normally brings.
"In his words, the Glenville, Ohio, native thought the football players were "just too big." So Jones opted to forgo cleats for slippers...
Jones took up ballet before entering high school, figuring the activity would replace passing and precision routes with pirouettes. Eventually, however, Jones found his way back on to the football field and became a dominant player in Ohio." FightOnState.com, June 27, 2010
His senior year highlight tape shows off his talented arm and dance-inspired agility.
Where Jones not been handling his business was the classroom.
Heading into signing day in 2011, the Buckeyes had a verbal commitment at quarterback from five-star prospect Braxton Miller. With Miller in the fold, Jim Tressel worked with Glenville head coach Ted Ginn, Sr. to give Jones a path to Ohio State, provided he put in the work to accomplish it. Jones had two legitimate options for a Division I football opportunity, and he decided to take Ohio State's path rather than head to the University of Toledo.
Enter Fork Union Military Academy. FUMA, as it's affectionately known, is a common landing spot for athletes who need to improve their grades to get into their school of choice. FUMA had helped rehabilitate the academic profile of Carlos Hyde just a year before, and at FUMA Jones was roommates with another future Buckeye, wide receiver Mike Thomas. There, the two learned the most important thing about football talent: it doesn't matter if no one can see you play. Without a focus in the classroom, you're wasted talent.
If you think Cardale Jones's road to Columbus bears resemblance to Troy Smith's, you're not alone: Jones saw the same links. Smith was a late addition to a 2002 Buckeye class that already had Justin Zwick in the mix, and he was thrust into the limelight as a redshirt sophomore. Whether or not Jones believed in fate, coincidence or blind luck, he set his sights high from the start according to Columbus Dispatch sportswriter Tim May.
"We both wear No. 10, and we were both in the same predicament when it comes to Ohio State, getting that offer at the last minute," Jones said. "It might be cliché, but history does repeat itself. I might not have gotten as many offers as Troy did, but as far as getting the offer I really wanted, I just did.
"And I might be going to the school where it looks like they got the quarterback they wanted, Braxton Miller, who is a great quarterback in my eyes." - Dispatch, Feb. 2, 2011
The start of Cardale Jones' maturation, often (and rightfully) credited to Urban Meyer and his staff, seems to have taken place before Meyer was anything more than a pipe dream for the Buckeyes. When asked by Cleveland.com whether or not his college plans would change when Meyer took over at Ohio State, Jones — who had yet to meet Meyer — was clear: it would not.
"It really doesn't change my thinking about going to Ohio State," said Jones, who plans to enroll at OSU in January. "It's really been about my education.
Cardale Jones could have taken the easy way out and chosen a college career that would have no doubt led to more snaps, more playing time and likely more glory. Jones, who committed to Jim Tressel, had every reason to not put in the work to become a Buckeye and stuck with Ohio State when the country ripped apart Tressel's own less-than-wise decision that led to his May 2011 dismissal.
"I'm still going to Ohio State because I'm an Ohio kid," he said. "To me, OSU means they get the best players from the state so that means I'm one of them. Who coaches there doesn't affect my decision but I'm sure [Tressel] did what's best for the program." - Cleveland.com, June 1, 2011
Confidence, incredible talent, pride, embarrassment, hard work and the occasional dose of humble-pie; that was Cardale Jones' road to Ohio State.