Cardale Jones: The Rise of an Improbable Leader

cardale jones

By: Jon Finkel

What makes a leader of men?

Poise? Confidence? Rising to an occasion? Perhaps it’s the ability to rally men to a cause, or to make them believe they can achieve greatness. On the football field, rarely are those traits embodied in a National Championship game by a quarterback as green as Ohio State’s redshirt sophomore starter, Cardale Jones.

And yet, last night Ohio State defeated Oregon to claim the first National Championship of the playoff era.

Six weeks ago Jones was known mostly for poor Twitter judgement. That’s it. Now, after just his 3rd career start, he created a legacy as a national champion.

Of course, OSU Coach Urban Meyer had a lot to do with making his team believe they could beat an Oregon juggernaut led by Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, but on the field, in every offensive huddle, it was Jones’ job, and he stepped up to the moment displaying some of the characteristics that make the game of football special; and they’re the same traits that great leaders in the world beyond the gridiron possess.

Jones began his first drive of the game down seven points, backed up in his own end zone. He ended the game comfortably ahead 42-20. He did it by completing 16 of 23 passes, throwing for one touchdown and rushing for another. He did it by believing in himself and getting his teammates to believe in him. He did it by being gracious and humble in victory.

“Even though I made some stupid turnovers, I knew I didn’t have to do too much and just have faith in my teammates and faith in our defense,” he said. “All the odds were stocked against us through the whole season, and for us to be sitting right here as national champs, it means a lot to me and our community, Buckeye Nation, and our hometowns.”

How did this happen? Can a leader truly be made overnight with the odds stacked against him? According to his coach, it would seem so.

“Cardale is a case study in overcoming adversity,” Urban Meyer said. “His personal alignment with his mentor, his high school coach, and his coaching staff. If that didn’t happen, he wouldn’t be sitting here.”

That speaks to adversity in his personal life. When it comes to adversity on the field, he was asked point blank if he ever got flustered during the game after some of the mistakes he talked about earlier. He had the following to say:

“I wasn’t flustered because they were mistakes that could have been avoided,” he said. “It was hard to be flustered or nervous or down when you have the other guys on defense playing the way they’re playing, and then definitely when you’ve got the guys up front blocking the way they were blocking.”

Giving credit where it’s due. Maintaining poise. A leader may have been made last night on the football field.

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