Where are they now? Cardale Jones means serious business, from talking to Ohio legislators to setting up cancer research fund
Cardale Jones could feel the weight of the unlikely moment. It was especially unexpected given his reputation for levity and lightheartedness. In short, he was regarded as a bit of a goofball. But his leadership was being called for, and he wanted to step up.
With many eyes on him, he stumbled at first.
"I said, 'Golly, guys. You talk about playing in front of 100,000 being nerve-wracking, try standing up here in front of you guys trying to pave the way for the guys behind you.' I'm like, this is nerve-wracking."
The former Ohio State quarterback was testifying in front of Ohio's legislators, trying to push for the General Assembly to pass a bill that would allow college athletes to profit off their names, images and likenesses.
In the end, it took intervention from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, but a measure passed that would grant college athletes their NIL rights.
The reason for Jones' involvement is that his ever-present, high-voltage smile is only part of who he is. He knows, though, that isn't how he has been perceived.
"From the outside looking in, people might have thought I didn't take things seriously enough or I didn't deserve certain opportunities because of my personality," he admitted.
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It is, perhaps ironically, both a genuine reflection of his nature and an element of himself he leans into as part of a carefully crafted persona.
"Especially when it came to sports, it allowed my teammates to be more comfortable around me," Jones said. "Just the simple fact that, 'Well, this guy, he's going to make light of the situation. He's never going to let a high get too high or a low get too low.' And that's just the way I carried myself."
Evidence of his more somber side is abundant in his post-playing career.
He teamed with experts in law, public relations and communications at Ten Talents NIL, which he called "kind of my baby right now."
They are working to secure athletes the very deals Jones stumped for at the Ohio Statehouse.
He said his journey from being able to walk down the street without anybody recognizing him to national championship quarterback allows him to understand the perspective of all the company's clients.
"If I can help them avoid mistakes I've made throughout my career, especially being a student-athlete, not just when it comes to NIL opportunities, then I feel that's kind of my obligation to do so," said Jones.
Plus, he did spend three years in the NFL and another season in the now-defunct XFL, which gave him additional valuable experience.
"It's not called NIL when you're a professional. It's called a marketing deal," he pointed out.
More playfully, he said that seeing his face on Panini trading cards was one of the best benefits of the marketing deals he landed when he was with the Bills, Chargers and Seahawks.
He continues to work out, believing another stint in the pros is possible. The fact that he co-founded training facility +2 University with former Ohio State strength coach Eric Lichter helps with that.
He wants to be a certified financial planner and advisor someday, so he's taking steps toward that.
"As long as I'm helping someone, that's where I see myself, being in the field where I can add value to someone else's life," Jones explained.
How does he know it's valuable work? While he thinks OSU did an excellent job explaining the real world to him when he was still an athlete, there was shellshock associated with his first NFL payday. "I wanted to call everybody who had taken money out of my check. ... I was ready to kick some butt," he said.
He is busy raising three kids as well. Daughter Chloe is 6 years old. Sons Carter and Owen are 5 and 4, respectively.
Point out to the future financial planner that all three kids will be in college at the same time, and he laughs.
"Guess what?" asked Jones. "They already know: There's only one school I'm paying for if I have to pay."
In strong terms, he makes clear, it's not Michigan.
Finally, as if that wasn't all enough, the former Buckeye quarterback has started the Cardale Jones Fund for Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Research.
"So cancer affecting people from 15-39, where we think we are the healthiest in our lives, right?" Jones specified.
It's very serious work for a very serious man.
Well, somewhat serious anyway.
"I wouldn't take goofball off the table," said Jones. "For sure."