The former Buckeye quarterback has learned that he needs to be ready for anything — any time — when it comes to preparing for the NFL Draft.
Of course there is the physical side of it, making sure he is in shape for any workouts that might be scheduled on short notice, but he’s also gotten some pop quizzes.
“You’ve just constantly gotta be on your game because you don’t know when you’re going to get a phone call from a coach who says, ‘Hey we’re gonna go over like three plays,’” Barrett said Tuesday after working out for the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium with more than 30 other “local” prospects. “He’ll spit ‘em to you and then you talk about your personal life and then next thing he wants you to spit those three plays back out.”
Fortunately for Barrett, football is his life anyway — perhaps more literally now than ever since he has graduated from Ohio State and has only the draft to focus on at this point.
The Big Ten’s all-time leader in total yards gave permission to call him a “football nerd” and said he has felt a good vibe with every coaching staff he has talked to since the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in early March.
He described his workout at chilly Paul Brown Stadium as “smooth” if not perfect.
“There were a couple of throws I would like to have back, but it happens,” Barrett said.
While his status at Ohio State is set — he beat Michigan four times, won two Big Ten championships and his school records include career completion percentage (63.5), touchdown passes (104), passing yards (9,434) and passing yards per game (188.7) — Barrett’s future in football is far from certain at this point.
The Texas native led Ohio State to a record 38 wins, but he didn’t always do it conventionally, at least not the way most NFL folks would see it.
He often relied on his running ability and had some bouts with passing inaccuracy at times despite the gaudy overall numbers.
That said, he sounds confident in his current situation and ready for whatever the next challenge might be.
“I don’t know if I’m out to prove anything, change people’s minds,” he said of his approach to the draft season. “What’s out there on me as far as tape and everything, that’s who I am. I’m still striving to get better so I don’t think I”m a finished product yet. I’m going to go out there and continue to work hard, continue to get better but be myself each and every day. I’m J.T. Barrett. This is me. I’m going to try to continue to be a great quarterback and a great person.”
In that case, Barrett may be less worried about his draft status than anyone else.
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As was often the case during his career in Columbus, he seems to see the big picture better than most.
His bank account will look better the earlier he hears his name during the draft, but getting an opportunity to show he can play at the highest level is the most important thing to him — even if he isn’t drafted and has to go the free-agent route.
“I think there’s a difference money-wise and how many chances they give you, but at the end of the day you’ve got to perform,” Barrett said. "Otherwise if you don’t produce in this league then you’re gonna be out of it pretty quickly.”