DALLAS — J.T. Barrett wants to make one thing clear: he doesn’t care about the past or future. The only thing that remains ever-present in his mind is just that — the present.
Even with Friday night’s Cotton Bowl against USC being the only game between Barrett and the end of his collegiate career, he said he does not reflect on the past and think about, for example, the final Wednesday practice or the final team meal of his collegiate career as he goes through a week filled with many ‘lasts.’
“I don’t really think about it. I don’t know. I think I’m just a different guy, I guess,” Barrett said. “I’ve been thinking about other things like, I don’t know, things I’m going to eat next or, like, when is the next nap I’m going to take. Those are things that come across my mind.”
He has seemingly experienced nearly everything a college football player could during his five seasons at Ohio State.
The fifth-year senior quarterback filled in unexpectedly for an injured star signal-caller as a redshirt freshman, suffered a season-ending injury late in the season, watched his team win a national championship, then found himself embroiled in a quarterback battle the next season.
Barrett won the Fiesta Bowl, was shut out in the first round of the College Football Playoff the following year, experienced a change in offensive coordinator, quarterbacked his team to a Big Ten championship and became the first Ohio State quarterback to beat Michigan in all four of his matchups with the Wolverines.
But he does not want to talk about his career highlights — or lowlights. He said he never sits back to consider the successes of his program and conference-record-filled collegiate career.
“I haven’t really thought about it, honestly,” Barrett said. “I think I’ve done some good things here at Ohio State, but I haven’t sat down and really thought about those things. That would be something I probably do later on in life, look back at just life in general and reflect and things like that.”
Barrett seems to care less about the past and future with each passing day, preferring to take a “day-by-day” approach, a phrase he uttered at least five times Tuesday.
He used to care. He used to wonder what life in the NFL would be like and consider the possibilities of his potential professional football career.
That changed in 2015 when, amid a quarterback battle with Cardale Jones, Barrett began to let thoughts about the future seep into his mind and started to worry about things that had not yet happened, that he could not control. He let it negatively affect him.
“So once I was able to just focus on the task at hand and things right now and the day-to-day things, one, I was less stressed. Two, things worked out better for me,” Barrett said. “Those are things that I focus on with the day to day.
“And then, when those things come across, those hurdles come, I’ll jump them when they come.”
The “day-by-day” attitude extends to Barrett’s thoughts on the future of his playing career.
His career as a Buckeye will end Friday night when either confetti rains on his victorious team or it suffers its third loss of the season. But it will continue just weeks later when he takes the field for the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 20. He isn’t worried about that yet, saying he will focus on that next challenge after Friday’s game.
When asked about what 2018 has in store for him, Barrett was succinct in his answer.
“What does it hold for me? I’ve got a couple things going on,” he said. “It’s the 26th of December. I’m worried about today. Then when the 27th comes, I’ll worry about that.”
Barrett doesn’t care about the past and the future, which is what everyone else seems to focus on.
He doesn’t care about the dozens of Ohio State and Big Ten records he has set. He doesn’t care about the nice things said about him or the compliments dished out after big wins. Barrett doesn’t care about the vitriolic comments fans make when he makes mistakes.
He used to. He used to let it affect him. But he doesn’t anymore. He’s focused on the now.