CLEVELAND — As Drake's "Started from the Bottom" blared over the sound system inside the gymnasium at Ginn Academy, it became clear to everyone Cardale Jones was going to declare for the NFL Draft. Ohio State's surplus at the quarterback position was going to go from three down to two: Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett.
But then, as Jones stepped to the microphone to make his announcement he did something he had been doing ever since he took over as the starting quarterback for the Buckeyes : He pulled the upset.
"My decision was very simple: I’d been talking it over with my family and my friends, my coaching staff," Jones said. "I’m going to return next year for school."
Jones has started three games at quarterback in his Ohio State career. He and the Buckeyes have also been underdogs in all three of those games. But despite all of that, Jones is 3-0 as Ohio State's starter and led the program to its first national title since 2002.
On Thursday on the east side of Cleveland, he pulled off another stunner — his fourth of the season — when he announced he was coming back to Columbus for his redshirt junior season.
"It’s everybody dream and goal when they play football or any collegiate to make it to the next level, but in my point in my career, I feel like it’s best for me to go back to school," Jones said. "One of the most important things for me to do is to graduate."
Jones' return sets the Buckeyes up with quite the embarrassment of riches at the quarterback position.
Both Miller and Barrett are recovering from injury, but as of now, will both be members of Ohio State's team next season. Barrett stated after the national championship game he would be back next year, while Miller hasn't publicly commented since he was ruled out for the season back in fall camp. But Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer has stated multiple times he expects Miller to return for his final season.
If that happens, what does Meyer do?
Does he go with Miller, the two-time Big Ten Player of the Year and one of the most dynamic players in all of college football? How about Barrett, who filled in admirably for Miller and led the Buckeyes to an 11-1 regular-season record and finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting? Or Jones, who led Ohio State to its three most difficult wins of the season and won the national championship.
It's truly a fascinating scenario.
The news of Jones' return makes things difficult for Meyer, who Jones said was caught a bit off guard by his decision.
"He was a little shocked but he understood," Jones said. "He always preaches to us that our education is the most important and we know that with all three of us back next year, it’s going to bring out the best in us."
It's unprecedented to have three high-level quarterbacks return to a program. But it should be a fun ride determining who will start next year for the Buckeyes. Make no mistake about it, though, Jones wants to play.
"Hopefully, I am the starter," Jones said, "But I mean, if I’m not, I’ll have to wait until my opportunity to do present itself again."
But if he doesn't start — if that nod goes to Miller or Barrett — Jones could still see the field. Thursday at his high school, he was jokingly asked if Ohio State could use three quarterbacks next year. Jones grinned ear-to-ear with that wide smile he's known for.
"I wouldn't put anything past Coach Meyer," he said.