ARLINGTON, Texas – Landry Jones’ college career has come full circle.
The Oklahoma quarterback began his playing career at Cowboys Stadium, and that’s where it will end in the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic at 7:30 p.m. ET Friday on FOX.
In between, he also quarterbacked the Sooners to a Big 12 title game win over Nebraska.
“It did start here,” Jones said during a Cotton Bowl media session underneath the stadium’s giant video board. “There’s always good feelings on this field, and just remembering how your career started and where you came from. It’s exciting to be back here and we’re excited to play.”
Jones’ college career started under dire circumstances. He relieved Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford, who had suffered a shoulder injury, against BYU in 2009 in what was the first regular-season game — college or pro — played at Cowboys Stadium.
The Sooners were upset in that contest 14-13, but Jones guided the Sooners to the Big 12 title the next season.
Jones also led the Sooners to a Big 12 co-championship this season and soon will finish off a career in which he has passed for 16,368 yards and 122 touchdowns.
“Landry has been a steady and excellent football player for us for four years,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “He has been through a lot of games and challenges. The way he has played down the stretch for us, he has been fabulous.”
Jones replaced a Heisman Trophy winner and will face one in his final game. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel won the award this year as a redshirt freshman.
The two had not met as of Wednesday, but Manziel was quoted as saying he remembers watching Jones play for the Sooners while he was in high school.
“I’m the old man around this place,” Jones chuckled. “It feels like it.”
Jones was considered one of the top candidates for the Heisman when the season began, after bypassing a chance to leave early for the NFL after the 2011 season.
Oklahoma losses against the teams with the other two Heisman finalists — Kansas State’s Collin Klein and Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o — ended his award campaign.
But now he gets a chance to beat the Heisman winner in his final game.
“I don’t really worry about that,” Jones said. “I’m out there to try to win the game. If I am the other quarterback, so be it.”
Jones also has watched Manziel play and respects what his opponent has accomplished in such a short time.
“You see the highlights: great player,” Jones said. “He’s had a lot of success this year in what they’ve done. You have to give him his props; he won a Heisman Trophy. You don’t do those things unless you’re a great player.”
While Manziel is just starting to write the story of his college career, Jones realizes he is about to write the final chapter of his. Jones, married to OU women’s basketball star Whitney Hand, wants his Christian faith to be remembered as much as any of his football achievements.
“I want to be remembered as a guy who always pointed his teammates toward Christ,” Jones said. “Whatever life situation they’re going through, that’s kind of how I want to be remembered, off the field and on the field.
“If people think I’m a good quarterback, that’s great. If people don’t, then people are allowed their opinions, too.”
Jones has been a frequent target of criticism, which happens to any Oklahoma quarterback who doesn’t win a national championship or the Heisman. But the only person whose opinion matters thinks pretty highly of him.
“We have great confidence in Landry,” Stoops said. “We recognize what a great quarterback Johnny Manziel is, but we love our quarterback as well.” Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire