Three wins, one ring and many questions: What now for Jones?
ARLINGTON, Texas – The story of Cardale Jones, third-string quarterback to national champion, is a story like no other.
Where it goes from here is uncertain, which is why the thought of Jones riding just three trophy games from backup to the NFL isn’t out of the question.
Jones admitted that late Monday night after Ohio State beat Oregon, 42-20, to win the national title.
"I’m not going to say I’m ‘definitely (not turning pro)," Jones told reporters. "(The NFL) is something that I’ll consider. My most important focus is getting my degree."
A 22-year-old redshirt sophomore, Jones hadn’t played a significant down at Ohio State until J.T. Barrett was injured in the fourth quarter of the regular-season finale vs. Michigan. Jones led Ohio State to victories over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and Oregon in his first three starts, throwing at least one touchdown pass in each.
At 6-foot-5, 250 lbs., Jones has rare size and athleticism and has shown flashes of having NFL-type talents. Both quarterbacks who were ahead of him at various times on the depth chart at Ohio State have remaining eligibility, too. Braxton Miller, the two-time Big Ten Player of the Year, missed what would have been his senior season with a shoulder injury. Barrett is a redshirt freshman who set the Big Ten single-season touchdown record and finished fifth in the Heisman voting.
Once considered a problem child who was suspended from the Ohio State team his redshirt year for a tweet, Jones has not only become a producer but has made a transformation Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has called "remarkable."
Now that he’s won a national championship, it’s possible Jones could come back and not be Ohio State’s starter.
"Now that’s a good question," Jones said when asked if he’d be willing to return in a backup role. "I don’t know."
Miller has another year of eligibility because he was hurt before playing his fourth season. He graduated in December, making him eligible to transfer and play immediately for another program if he chooses that route over the NFL or returning to Ohio State. Miller’s father told the Columbus Dispatch last month that his son plans to return to Ohio State.
Jones would need an NCAA waiver to play at a different FBS program in 2015. He’d be immediately eligible at the FCS level.
Last month, Sports Illustrated reported that Jones is a year from getting his degree and that graduating from Ohio State is a priority. Jones said last week he planned to return Ohio State.
The deadline for players with remaining eligibility to declare for the NFL Draft is Thursday, Jan. 15.