COLUMBUS, Ohio — It would be easy for Ohio State coaches to say they saw J.T. Barrett’s record-breaking potential coming from miles away, but they seem more interested in telling the truth.
That’s for the best, since it’s a better story anyways.
Less than an hour after he’d finished with 60 career touchdown passes through just 21 starts, Barrett recalled the time when, as an early enrollee in spring 2013, he missed a corner route by about five yards and drew an all-time reaction from Ohio State coach Urban Meyer.
“He was like, ‘Who brought in this guy?’” Barrett said. “I’m not going to say exactly what he said, but he was like, ‘Who brought this guy here? He can’t play quarterback here.’ He wasn’t really hyped about me by any means.”
Meyer, an offensive guru obsessed with perfecting every detail, actually had more reason to point the finger than usual. He’d made it his policy throughout his career to only offer players he worked out in person. Things went by the wayside, however, when Ohio native Malik Zaire committed to Notre Dame in March 2012.
“It was my first year,” Meyer said. “I said (to Barrett) I need to see you throw. For some reason that didn’t happen. And we started losing (potential) commitments at quarterback right away.
“(Offensive coordinator Tom Herman) said I think we should take this guy. I said what’s his name again? He said J.T. Barrett. I said okay. I called Trent Dilfer from the Elite 11. He went to him. He sold me on him. We took him. He’s the first quarterback I’ve ever signed that I never saw throw. Think about that.”
Herman had gone to Wichita Falls, Texas, to see Barrett throw in person. Jim Garfield, then the head coach at Wichita Falls (Texas) Rider, found himself in the precarious position of having to answer questions from Herman about Barrett, knowing full well that Meyer would be relying on that feedback to make a decision on his quarterback.
He’d seen enough of Barrett over his first three years of high school, however, to confidently recommend his quarterback to Ohio State’s staff. Everything Ohio State fans are seeing now, Garfield said, was what he saw during four years in north Texas. He found open receivers. He made good decisions. He could squeeze the ball into tight spaces. He had a high football IQ. And, more than anything else, he was willing to put in the work in a way that few others were.
When he needed to vouch for Barrett, he didn’t hesitate.
“Coach Meyer never watched him throw, and he just trusted that Coach Herman was bringing the right guy to the table,” Garfield said. “Coach Herman trusted me enough to take it to him. I think Coach Meyer believes in what Texas high school coaches – and all high school coaches – say about their kids. I heard him say on a YouTube video one time where he was talking to some kids that he believes what the high school coach says. I told Coach Herman, ‘This guy can do whatever.’ He went back and believed it and Coach Meyer believed Coach Herman was right. And look where we’re at now.”
Barrett holds the career touchdown passing record at Ohio State. If he wants use all his eligibility and stays healthy, he’ll have more than 20 games left to pad this number – that’s more games than he’s currently started. He’s a Heisman contender and the starting quarterback of the No. 2 team in the country.
None of it would have been possible if Meyer hadn’t gone outside his comfort zone, and none of it would have been possible if Garfield hadn’t offered his endorsement to Herman, if Herman hadn’t agreed, and if Dilfer hadn’t backed it up with his own positive review.
“Having the trust in us to give that recommendation means a lot,” Garfield said.
It hasn’t stopped paying off since.