In the span of three days during National Football Championship week, Ohio State University quarterback Cardale Jones went from football superstar to authentic sports hero.
His superstar status was earned after stepping up from his spot as third-string quarterback to lead the Buckeyes past Wisconsin, Alabama and then Oregon on Jan. 12 to capture the NCAA National Championship.
Just a few days later, Jones emerged as authentic sports hero when he walked up to the podium at Cleveland Schools Ginn Academy and announced he would return to OSU to get his degree and put the NFL on hold.
“The decision was very simple,” said Jones. “I’m going to return next year for school. It is everybody’s dream when they play collegiate sports to make it to the next level. But at my point in my career, it’s best for me to go back to school. One of the most important things for me to do is to graduate.”
It was an inspirational example of personal growth that epitomizes the value of college sports. Just a few years ago, Jones was vilified for a tweet he made about attending college for football, not classes.
But last Thursday’s announcement righted that wrong and sent a clear message about college sports: That they are a place for young men and women to grow into themselves. No one is expected to be perfect. But you are expected to correct your mistakes.
“Cardale has been an incredible case study of spirit and the maturity level he has come to,” said Buckeye head coach Urban Meyer last week.
No doubt. And that is the reason Jones has elevated himself from football star to authentic sports hero.
Cardale Jones rewind
Cardale Jones had a terrific career at Glenville High, taking the Tarblooders to the 2009 Div. I state championship game against Hilliard Davidson. The state title game against Davidson marks the only appearance of a Cleveland public school in a state finals football game ever.
But Glenville lost that year, his junior season, 16-15. Davidson earned a hard-fought victory in the championship game on the frigid turf of Canton’s Fawcett Stadium. Davidson scored with just over a minute left in regulation to cut Glenville’s lead to 15-14. Davidson head coach Brian White then made the call of the season by successfully going for the two-point conversion to account for the final 16-15 score. Glenville was ranked fourth in the country going into the contest.
The next season, 2010, Glenville faced the Kevin Burke-led St. Edward Eagles in the regionals, losing to the eventual state champs from Lakewood, 42-22.
Glenville went 24-3 through 2009 and 2010, the two years that Jones started at quarterback. Other Glenville players from that era who also went on to make their marks at the college level, include Christian Bryant (OSU), Indiana receivers Justin Hardee and Shane Wynn, and USC lineman Aundray Walker.
As one Glenville fan’s sign at the Davidson game back in ‘09: “Glenville!! It’s Your Time. Bring it Home Cleveland.”
Little did anyone know that Glenville’s time would actually come at the 2015 Collegiate National Championship Game where Cardale Jones used the national stage to make his leap from from sports star to community leader. A perfect example of the true meaning of college sports.