As an NFL player and former Ohio State quarterback, Cardale Jones wants to use his platform and opportunity to help others to work with children and give back to the community.
Jones is making that happen this summer with two new projects in Columbus.
Last month, Jones and former Ohio State strength and conditioning coach Eric Lichter opened Plus Two University, a new training facility in Columbus. Plus Two is offering a wide variety of training programs for people of all ages, including adult boot camps, elite athlete training and pro day training for small school college programs, but Jones said his primary goal through the facility is to work with kids – and not necessarily those who are on track to be future elite athletes.
“We kind of came up with the idea mid-to-late last year after I had my youth football camp in Cleveland, me and Eric kind of always were on the same wavelength when it comes to helping others and helping the youth,” Jones told Eleven Warriors. “So we were kind of throwing around the idea and it really wasn’t nothing, it was just kind of a preliminary thought, but we really dug deep into it and thought we could bring something to Columbus and hopefully to more cities here soon that would not just teach the kids, develop them physically and athletically, but a lot of character traits that you need in the real world.
“As we all know, every kid’s not going to make it athletically playing their sports, from high school to college and college to the pros, in no matter what sport. So we’re trying to kind of prepare them with hard work and a lot of life lessons for the real world, through the rigorous training of athletics.”
Jones has known Lichter, who was Ohio State’s head strength and conditioning coach from 2006-11, since he was a kid, as Lichter was previously owned a training center in Northeast Ohio, where he worked with Jones in addition to a multitude of future NBA and NFL players, including LeBron James and former Ohio State football stars LeCharles Bentley and Nate Clements.
While Jones never had the opportunity to train with Lichter at Ohio State, as Lichter was replaced by Mickey Marotti when Urban Meyer became the Buckeyes’ head coach in 2012, they reconnected when Jones was going into his second year in the NFL, and Jones has been training with Lichter ever since. Jones was interested in opening a training center with Lichter because of his desire to work with youth and because he believes they will have the opportunity to learn from one of the best strength and conditioning coaches in the business.
“I don’t want to put my name on something or I don’t want to team up with anyone who don’t have the right mindset, who don’t have the right goal,” Jones said. “And with Eric, it worked out perfectly, him being locally in Columbus and us both having a passion to not just help kids athletically, but help them off the field as well. This guy was a guy who coached at the highest level, and trained guys at the highest level. So there’s not just some guy who just wanted to get into it for a paycheck or wanted to get into it to see how good he is. This is a proven guy.”
“We really dug deep into it and thought we could bring something to Columbus and hopefully to more cities here soon that would not just teach the kids, develop them physically and athletically, but a lot of character traits that you need in the real world.”– Cardale Jones on starting Plus Two University
While Jones said they are already generating interest from some of the top youth athletes in the region, he said their goal is also to empower children who might be struggling – whether athletically or elsewhere in their lives – and give them confidence.
“Our target audience isn’t the freak athletes that’s no matter who they train with, no matter where they go are going to have a bright, athletic career. Our target audience is pretty much the kids that’s struggling maybe with bullying or struggling with confidence or struggling kids that are 12 years old but athletically and physically they are 9 years old,” Jones said. “Me personally, I think they’re going to gain a lot of self-confidence. A lot of awareness and a lot of determination and hard work.”
Since Jones is still looking to continue his NFL career – he is currently entering his fourth season in the league and will attempt to make the Los Angeles Chargers’ roster this summer – Lichter will run the day-to-day operations in Columbus, but Jones said he will be around as much as he can be and train there in the offseason.
Beyond launching Plus Two, Jones has also been preparing to host his first Celebrity Softball Game, which is scheduled for Saturday (1-4 p.m.) at Buckeye Field on Ohio State’s campus (2410 Fred Taylor Dr). Jones and fellow former Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett will captain the teams, and more than 20 other former Ohio State athletes are scheduled to participate, including Bobby Carpenter, James Laurinaitis, Joshua Perry, Tyvis Powell, Anthony Schlegel, Evan Spencer, JJ Sullinger and Chris “Beanie” Wells, among others.
Looking forward to my Charity Softball Game July 13th @ Buckeye Field. Special thanks to @SRE_Group & all of the great sponsors for help making this happen and contributing to a great cause! #GoBucks #BeatCancer pic.twitter.com/PbtWJA4mCv— Cardale Jones (@Cardale7_) July 2, 2019
Jones said it “means a lot” to have all of those players joining him back in Columbus to be a part of the event – which is raising money for the Buckeye Cruise for Cancer – and said he is “extremely excited” for Saturday.
“This is a great way to have something fun and have something entertaining for the fans, have something that everybody can participate in,” Jones said. “It’s been a long process of planning and getting details passed out, this being my first one ever. So I’m excited for it, and I think it’s going to be a great event.”
Tickets for Saturday’s event cost $20. Each adult ticket will enter the ticketholder into a raffle for prizes that include a cabin on next year’s Buckeye Cruise for Cancer, a bat signed by all of the former Buckeyes participating and more.
“We tallied up how much giveaways we have; our tickets are $20 but they will actually be getting $25 worth of gifts in exchange,” Jones said. “So I think it’s a pretty fair trade. And it’s another great opportunity for our fans to be around some of the Buckeyes they cheered on through their college and NFL careers. It’s an opportunity for us Buckeyes to be around these people who supported us through thick and thin.”
Count Powell among those who are excited to show off their softball skills.
“If I would have taken baseball serious, I would have been really good. I would have probably been Mike Trout,” Powell said, laughing, in a recent interview with Eleven Warriors. “So I’m going to go ahead and get me a couple of home runs because like I said, Mike Trout ain’t got nothing on me.”