DALLAS — When J.T. Barrett speaks to the media, he comes off as a quiet, humble redshirt freshman quarterback. When he speaks to his team before games, he's apparently something much different.
When Barrett was Ohio State's starting quarterback, his pregame speeches to his teammates became somewhat legendary. The team wouldn't reveal exactly what he said, just described it as intense.
"Incredible," redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Pat Elflein said of Barrett's pregame speeches back in October. "He really gets you going."
Even though he was just a freshman and in his first year as a starting quarterback, Barrett earned the right to deliver pregame speeches based on his performance on the field.
It's well-documented the kind of historic year Barrett had as the Buckeyes' quarterback. He threw for 2,834 yards and 34 touchdowns while rushing for an additional 938 yards and 11 scores. His performance through Ohio State's first 12 games of the season allowed him to finish fifth in this year's Heisman Trophy voting.
But in that 12th game of the year — the annual clash with archrival Michigan — Barrett was lost for the season on the very first play of the fourth quarter when he fractured his ankle. His record-setting season was over.
Just when Ohio State had finally hit its stride and was making a push to make the College Football Playoff, one of its biggest leaders — on and off the field — had gone down.
But like any great teammate, Barrett didn't sulk when he found out he could no longer play this year. He got behind and supported Ohio State's new starter, Cardale Jones. And since taking over, all Jones has done is throw for 490 yards and four touchdowns in his two starts — wins over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game and Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
"It’s not like we just threw him away," Jones said. "J.T. and Braxton (Miller) are still in meeting rooms. They still get held accountable as if they were starters."
Perhaps that's before the games are played, too. Because even though Barrett is no longer the starting quarterback for the Buckeyes, he's still delivering pregame speeches as if he were.
"Even though he is younger than a lot of guys on the team, people have said it before, he is a natural leader and he is just a guy you will rally around even though he is not playing," Ohio State junior offensive tackle Taylor Decker said. "You want to hear what he has to say, a guy like that because he is well-respected."
On the sidelines, Barrett can be seen wearing a headset standing beside Jones when the Buckeyes' defense is on the field. He's assisting Jones every step of the way, it seems.
His play over the first 12 games helped Ohio State get to the Big Ten championship game. But it's his leadership over the next two that has the Buckeyes on the doorstep of a national championship.
"When he talks you listen, just because he is not out there playing with us does not mean he is not a leader on this team," Decker said. "He still (gave the pregame speech) for the Alabama game and I am sure that for this next game he is going to do that as well.