Don’t Grow Weary: Lessons from JT Barrett

When you live in Columbus, Ohio (a.k.a Buckeye Nation) you hear a LOT about The Ohio State University football team whether you like it or not.

Fortunately, I grew up here so I’m a Buckeyes fan by default and don’t mind the fact that the city bleeds scarlet and gray.

While scrolling through my Instagram feed today, I saw this post by JT Barrett with the caption “Galatians 6:9”.

♠Galatians 6:9

A post shared by JT Barrett (@jt_theqbiv) on

Galatians 6:9 says “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

His caption got me thinking…

The (quick, oversimplified, mostly-gathered-from-Wikipedia-and-from-overheard-ESPN-and-The-Football-Fever-Segments-on-TV) back story:

JT Barrett was redshirted as a freshman at Ohio State in 2013. He earned the second-string quarterback position in the Summer of 2014. That same Summer, OSU star quarterback Braxton Miller suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. Instantly, JT became the starting QB.

jt barrett braxton miller

Fast-forward to the biggest rivalry game of that year: OSU vs Michigan. Ohio State was up 28-21 in the fourth quarter when JT went down with a broken ankle.

Third-string QB Cardale Jones – whom JT passed up in the Summer of 2014 for the second-string QB spot – stepped in, finished that game with a win and led the team from a Big Ten title, through College Football’s inaugural Playoff series and all the way to a critic-silencing, undisputed National Championship game win. All of this while JT hobbled around on the sidelines with an injured ankle.

ElevenWarriors.com

ElevenWarriors.com

Cardale Jones was an overnight sensation.

Every sports media outlet marveled at Ohio State’s ability to win it all, in spite of (and perhaps because of!) playing with their third-string quarterback. Cardale was so immensely popular nationwide, he held a Lebron James-style press conference to announce that he was going back to Ohio State the following season instead of filing for early NFL draft eligibility.

WSYX ABC 6

ABC6OnYourSide.com

So, Summer 2015, Cardale Jones was staying on the team, JT Barrett’s ankle was getting better and Braxton Miller’s shoulder was improving. The big question all Summer was who would be the starting QB? In July, Braxton announced that he was switching from QB to receiver, so that left Coach Urban Meyer to decide between Jones and Barrett for starting QB.

Would it be the one who was at the helm for just three-and-a-quarter games (albeit three-and-a-quarter of the most important games of the entire season)? Or would it be the one who was the quarterback before he got injured?

Urban left us to speculate all Summer before answering our question by starting Cardale in this season’s first game and leaving JT on the sidelines. Game two, same thing. Game three vs Northern Illinois, Barrett relieved Cardale for a few plays but that was it. Game six vs Maryland, Barrett played QB in the red zone. Game seven against Penn State, he played QB in the red zone then took over completely in the second half. And shined.

Quarterback JT Barrett

I’ll leave the analysis to Cleveland.com’s Ari Wasserman:

Barrett was extremely effective in the win. He finished the game with more than 100 yards rushing and two touchdowns, two passing touchdowns and he led Ohio State to touchdowns in five of its six red zone opportunities.

Jones finished the game 9-of-15 for 84 yards and no touchdowns….

…The question now is what’s next? Was this just a match-up thing with Penn State, or did Meyer discover that the best man for the job is Barrett? The circus begins again.

Here we are in Week 8 and, once again, Coach Meyer is reevaluating and isn’t revealing who will start as QB this weekend. Meanwhile, JT Barrett’s fanbase has exploded and the internet is chock-full of headlines like this  “J.T. Barrett is the right QB for Ohio State’s current personnel”

JT Barrett Headlines

Okay, that wasn’t a “quick” backstory.

Anyway, back to his Instagram caption that got me thinking…

Life is a series of twists and turns. One minute, you’re a redshirt freshman, the next you’re the starting QB, suddenly you’re sidelined with an injury, then you’re uninjured but passed over, and the next moment you’ve got the whole country saying you deserve to be starting QB again complete with your own #FreeJT trending hashtag.

I’m not sure how, at just 20 years old, JT is even coping with all of these sudden, public changes in fortune. I glazed over most of the details and, still, I’m exhausted just writing about it.

What’s impressive about JT though is his attitude. He had a lot to be salty about, but, at least openly, he seemed to take all of the changes in stride. He wasn’t making snide comments in interviews, posting subtweets, leading the #FreeJT mob online, or generally doing anything negative that would be somewhat understandable for a guy his age in his position. (Don’t get me wrong, it wouldn’t be right, but it wouldn’t be totally surprising either.)

I can’t imagine what he has been going through internally – especially while he stood poker-faced on the sidelines for the first couple games of the season being carefully watched by the cutaway cameras.

JT Barrett sidelined

I’ve observed that men are relentlessly competitive – even when winning means absolutely nothing. In this case, winning the QB spot can mean everything. I’m guessing Ezekiel Elliot has the Heisman Trophy on lock, but Barrett was a serious contender before his injury. Plus isn’t it tougher to be drafted into the NFL when you’re not actually playing in your college games? Not to mention these men are on the team because they want to play. Period.

And he wasn’t playing. He was watching.

I mentioned to my husband Joe that (for as long as I’ve been paying attention) JT Barrett seems to only have positive things to say to the press, but he was probably actually pretty bummed inside and felt he should’ve been the starting QB this season. Joe agreed and quoted the scripture, “It’s not what’s in a man that defiles him, it’s what comes out.” I thought about that truth for a moment. Whether JT was secretly upset about his misfortune this Summer is unknown and ultimately doesn’t matter. It’s what he expressed that counts. And now, he doesn’t have to go around telling everyone he should be the starting QB. He doesn’t have to say anything, every sports commentator in the country is saying it for him.

Maybe that’s the lesson in all of this. We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control how we react to it. We can use our time on the sidelines to get better – even if there is no indication or real reason to believe we will ever get to play. We can keep a good attitude.

And if and when we are given the opportunity we deserve, we can go out there and win.

—————————-

UPDATE (October 20, 2015): JT Barrett Named Starting QB against Rutgers

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