INDIANAPOLIS — The J.T. Barrett story has been a page-turner. Why shouldn’t the final chapters include a little mystery?
From the very beginning of his decorated career at Ohio State, there’s been nothing predictable about this unique, original journey that Barrett has authored. Now nobody knows for sure if the school’s only three-time captain can even play in a game that could help solidify his legacy.
His first start unexpectedly fell out of the blue just more than a week before his redshirt freshman season. His rapid rise was short-circuited with an injury that robbed him of the feel-good ending in the run to the national championship. Barrett has lost the starting job and regained it. He’s been to incredible heights rewriting the record books, and he’s dealt with lows that come with high-profile losses and public questions about whether he should be benched.
Maybe it’s fitting that heading into the Big Ten championship game on Saturday against Wisconsin, nobody can predict what kind of ending is in store for one of the greatest players to suit up for the Buckeyes.
Can he play six days after a knee surgery? Will he be the starter and go the distance, or will another crack at a conference crown go to his backup? Is Dwayne Haskins about to become the next Cardale Jones? How quickly can Ohio State bronze Barrett’s cleats if he shakes off the knee injury and knocks off the undefeated Badgers?
Nobody knows what is in store for Barrett, including coach Urban Meyer. But that probably shouldn’t surprise anybody who has followed his one-of-a-kind run with the program.
“I’ve had players have similar types of things happen, they’re out two, three weeks,” Meyer said Friday before Ohio State’s walkthrough. “It’s very delicate and something we’re going to watch during the course of the game. Some game-time decisions will be made. But he’s not normal.
“Certain people probably could [miss this game]. But J.T.’s a little different. … It takes a rare individual to be able to do it, because there is a pain threshold. When you start talking about 15 hours a day of treatment, which is what he did, I can’t say that’s normal. Because it’s not. He’s just one of the toughest human beings I’ve ever come across in my career. A guy that’s all in, just a very unique individual.”
That won’t change no matter what happens in primetime at Lucas Oil Stadium. After all, nobody is taking away his entries in the record books or the third Big Ten Quarterback of the Year Award he just claimed this week, and his perfect record in The Game is already secure.
Even that, of course, wasn’t exactly neat and tidy, since pretty much nothing is with Barrett. The Buckeyes were losing when Haskins came in during the third quarter when Barrett’s knee injury flared up and forced him to the locker room, at least cracking open the door for skeptics in the argument over the greatest quarterbacks in Ohio State history.
But the truth is the Buckeyes would have never been in position to complete that comeback if Barrett hadn’t provided his unflappable leadership and playmaking after his team fell behind by two scores in the first quarter. He was already showing off his impressive toughness just doing that after his bizarre encounter with a cameraman on the sideline before Ohio State’s opening drive. Holding it against Barrett that he couldn’t finish the game on a knee that required surgery the next day is crazy.
The same would be true if Barrett can’t go against the Badgers. In reality, his spot among Ohio State legends is secure.
But if this cliffhanger playing out in the final pages includes a miraculous return from knee surgery and a Big Ten championship? Start the bidding war for the movie rights now.
“He said [Sunday], ‘Coach, I’ll be fine,’” Meyer said. “I said OK, and then we went about our business and I watched him rehab. Every time I walked by the training room when I got in at 6 a.m., he’s there. And when I go home at 6 at night, he’s there.
“Just don’t put anything past J.T.”
Any ending is still on the table.
One way or the other, nobody will have seen this kind of finish for Barrett coming.
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