COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett packed a little lighter than his previous College Football Playoff trips.
Ohio State will be making its second playoff trip in three seasons, but the Buckeyes quarterback will be without one key piece of equipment from 2014: his trusty scooter. After breaking his fibula in the regular-season finale against Michigan, Barrett used a four-wheel, padded scooter to rest his cast-encased right leg. It became one of the defining images of Ohio State’s championship run, even if it doesn’t always bring back fond memories for its owner.
“People would get on it and be like, ‘Man J.T., you must be having a lot of fun,’ ” Barrett said. “I was like ‘My brother, I can’t walk. After you’re finished with it you go and walk to where you want to go, and I’ve got to get on and scoot again.’ So it was one of those-type things.”
Two years later, Barrett is back in the College Football Playoff. The scooter is nowhere to be seen. After months of rehab and a trying 2015 season in which he split time with playoff star Cardale Jones, the junior quarterback entered 2016 with the knowledge that the Buckeyes belonged to him.
He’s had the occasional hiccup, but he’s largely thrived as Ohio State’s starter in 2016. The Buckeyes finished the regular season with an 11-1 record, and Barrett passed for 24 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
That same regular-season record in 2014 helped the Buckeyes get into the playoff, and it proved good enough in 2016 as well. The only difference is that this year Barrett will actually be healthy enough to try to finish what he started. Something that others might take for granted is instead a blessing for the junior. For all he’s accomplished at Ohio State, this will be his first chance to personally play for a championship.
“That was one of the things I wrote down as one of my goals when I was a freshman,” he said. “I wanted to play for a national championship and win. So yeah, I was part of one in 2014, but this was really one of my personal goals – to be able to help this team win a national championship.
“I think playing in it is something totally different. That’s something I definitely want to be a part of.”
For Barrett, a national championship would help cement his legacy at Ohio State. He already owns a healthy chunk of the program’s record book. He’ll own even more of it if he returns for his senior season. Yes, he already has the 2014 title. But it would mean even more if he were to pilot the Buckeyes to a title on the field instead of watching on the sidelines.
“Now is his chance to do that, and I think that is one of the things that excites him,” Ohio State offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said. “That’s why he is such a leader and a competitor. He’s our captain and he is really excited about that. It is really important to him.”
Barrett’s path to a national championship will feature a pair of big tests. First up comes the Fiesta Bowl against No. 2 Clemson. If the Buckeyes win that, they’d likely face No. 1 Alabama in the CFP National Championship.
While it’s easy to daydream about the idea that the universe owes him success after his injury, Barrett knows better. If he brings home a trophy, it will be because he earned it.
“I don’t think life works out that way,” he said when asked if fate owed him a championship. “I just feel like you put the time in, the work in and you’re on the better half of things.
“As far as a fate owing me anything? Nah, it doesn’t work out that way.”