Cardale Jones is still hoping for another chance to play professional football.
That’s why Jones was at Ohio State’s pro day on Wednesday, when he was one of two quarterbacks who threw passes to NFL draft hopefuls. While current Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud was the quarterback for Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson and Demario McCall, Jones threw the ball to Chris Booker and Master Teague as well as former Ohio Dominican wide receiver David Turner and former Fisk University basketball player-turned-tight end Malik Smith (the younger brother of Tyreke Smith).
While all of the players Jones was throwing to were trying to convince the representatives from all 32 NFL teams in attendance that they deserve to be selected in this year’s draft, Jones was also attempting to show he should get another chance in the league, even though it’s been nearly three years since Jones has been on an NFL roster.
“Still out there looking for a shot, and I thought this was a great opportunity,” Jones said after Wednesday’s pro day. “Hopefully this opens up other opportunities for me to come into one of these organizations and have a workout or battle for a spot in camp.”
A fourth-round pick in the 2016 NFL draft, Jones spent just one season with the Buffalo Bills in which he appeared in just one game before he was traded to the Los Angeles Chargers. He spent two years with the Chargers, but never appeared in a regular-season game and was waived by the team prior to the 2019 season. Since a brief stint on the Seattle Seahawks’ practice squad in September 2019, Jones’ only other professional football experience came with the D.C. Defenders during the first XFL reboot in 2020.
Jones felt his performance in Wednesday’s pro day “could have been better,” as his throws weren’t always on the mark, but he showcased he still has the deep-ball throwing ability that made him the breakout star of Ohio State’s 2014 national championship run.
Cardale Jones deep ball to Chris Booker: pic.twitter.com/PScM51eYQI— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) March 23, 2022
Stroud was impressed by what he saw while throwing alongside Jones.
“I think he’ll have the opportunity to be able to play again, and I'm excited for him and I'm rooting for him,” Stroud said.
Booker and Teague both spent time training with Jones leading up to Wednesday’s pro day, and they praised Jones not only for his ability to throw the ball but also for the knowledge of the game he was able to pass on to them.
“He's been in the league, so he knows, he's knowledgeable about splits and how we run routes and timing and stuff,” Booker told Eleven Warriors before pro day. “So it's good picking his brain and listening to him when he lets us know about how we run a certain route and the timing and what he wants it to look like.”
Although it’s been nearly two years since he’s played in a football game, Jones says he’s been continuing to train ever since and keeping himself in playing shape for if the call from the league comes. He plans to continue training for at least the next year in hopes that another opportunity will come his way.
“Hopefully it happens this year, but if not, I’ll come back next year,” Jones said. “If it don’t happen that next year, then I'll be officially done with it.”
That said, Jones isn’t solely focused on his own playing career anymore. Jones is the chief talent officer for Ten Talents, an NIL agency whose clients include Ohio State football player Lejond Cavazos, Ohio State women’s basketball players Madison Greene and Jacy Sheldon and former Cincinnati cornerback and current NFL draft prospect Coby Bryant. He’s also the co-founder of The Foundation, a non-profit that will fund name, image and likeness deals for Ohio State athletes to partner with local charities.
Jones says he wants The Foundation, which is set to officially launch later this week, to create opportunities for Buckeye football players and other Ohio State athletes to not only make money but also give back to the communities. He says the goal is to partner with 10-12 different charities, such as Buckeye Cruise for Cancer, LifeTown and The James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State, that athletes can choose to partner with based upon what causes they are passionate about.
“What we are doing, we are giving these guys a chance to get involved with the community, as far as charity outreach and things like that,” Jones said. “Because a lot of these guys are passionate about it already. A guy like Harry Miller, a guy like Paris Johnson already have their own foundation and things like that. So bringing more awareness and shedding light on that and just giving people the opportunity to see these guys as more than just athletes – guys and girls eventually, as more than athletes.”
While similar NIL collectives supporting athletes at other schools like Tennessee have offered deals to high school athletes to entice them to attend specific schools, Jones said The Foundation does not plan to make targeted offers to recruits. Jones is hopeful The Foundation will help Ohio State recruit, though, by creating more NIL opportunities that athletes can take advantage of once they become Buckeyes.
“If a potential recruit sees the things that we're doing here, for the players here, I think that's going to go into recruiting itself,” Jones said. “For example, if we were in a position where we spent – let's just say any number – a million dollars on the football team with players and getting involved in these different charities over this upcoming season, then that recruit can go look at that, because it’s all going to be public records, he can look at that and say, ‘Oh, I can be a part of that whatever amount of money that that quarterback room got or that player just got.’ So I think that's going to be used as a recruiting tool in itself without intentionally using it as a recruiting tool.
“A lot of these recruits follow a lot of these guys on social media when it comes to the football and basketball team. And some of the things that they’re going to have to do is post little things about some things they’re doing, and I think once that catches a wave and these guys are following each other, they're going to put two and two together.”
Because Jones now spends most of his time running Ten Talents and preparing to launch The Foundation, he says he has to compartmentalize, often spending his mornings focusing on football training before spending the rest of the day working on NIL deals. But he says he’ll be ready to balance it all if a call from the NFL comes.
“It's a thin line because a lot of my focus right now is on the NIL world and helping the athletes of Ohio, in particular Ohio State, capitalize on their name, image and likeness,” Jones said. “But my dream and goal is still to play professional football.”