ARLINGTON, Texas – J.T. Barrett's career as Ohio State's starting quarterback will likely be debated for years to come as one of the most successful, yet rocky four years.
On Friday night, Barrett walked off the field at AT&T Stadium for the final time as a Buckeye with his 38th and final win as a starter for the scarlet and gray, the most of any Ohio State signal-caller in school history.
After his final game, Barrett took the time to thank head coach Urban Meyer for pushing him to become the best player he could be over the last five years.
"God has definitely blessed me and my family for the opportunity to be at Ohio State. I'm grateful for coaches, like Coach (Urban) Meyer, really be hard on me. But at the end of the day, he's very honest. And I think that's something great about Ohio State," Barrett said. "They're honest. I mean, not everybody wants honesty; but he's very honest with me. And at the end of the day, I knew he was going to do right by not only myself but also the guys in the locker room. So I'm very blessed and thankful for that."
In his final game, Barrett's stats were pedestrian at best. He completed 11-of-17 passes for 117 yards, adding another 66 yards on the ground including both of Ohio State's offensive scores in a 24-7 win. With the lack of scoring and production from both USC and the rest of the Buckeye offense, Barrett was named the Outstanding Offensive Player of the Cotton Bowl for his performance.
Barrett, a native of Wichita Falls, Texas had a number of friends and family members in attendance at his final game, something he said meant a lot to him.
"I had a quite a few people from Wichita Falls. Very grateful that people was able to come to the game, being it was the last game in AT&T Stadium," he said.
As the first quarterback to commit to Meyer at Ohio State, Barrett and the Buckeye head coach developed a strong connection over the years in Columbus, as Meyer repeatedly praised Barrett for his leadership qualities and toughness.
Meyer again gushed about his quarterback following the Cotton Bowl victory. When asked to reflect on what Barrett meant to the program, Meyer said there were tears in the postgame locker room immediately following the win over USC.
"I get asked that question quite often, and I never get tired of it. We just had a lot of not very many dry eyes in the locker room. And respect is not given. Respect is earned," Meyer said. "The cool thing is that your dream is to come into a place and leave it a little bit better than when you came here and he did."
As for what comes next in Barrett's football career, much is uncertain. He is set to play in the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 20 ahead of the 2018 NFL Draft, despite not being projected as an early-round draft pick.
Even though draft stock for Barrett isn't high, Meyer said he believes Barrett's football future is bright, whether it is on the field or perhaps on the sideline as a coach.
"Elite leader that raises the level of those around him, raises the level of toughness, of will to win, of the practice habits, the human spirit," Meyer said. "I know he says he doesn't want to coach, but I'm not done trying to get him to coach because he should do that.
"He should be in a position someday – I know he's going to go play in the NFL, and that might be his platform. But he should be in a position someday – God made a special guy there, very unique guy. And he's got a skill set that I haven't come across very often."