ARLINGTON, Texas — In a media session leading up to the Cotton Bowl, a television reporter asked quarterback J.T. Barrett if he still considered himself a Texan after five years at Ohio State.
Bewildered, the mild-mannered Wichita Falls, Texas, native had to collect his thoughts.
Ohio State's J.T. Barrett celebrates with fans following the team's Big Ten championship earlier this month.
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“I love Ohio, but I’m from the great state of Texas. Ain’t no doubt about it,” Barrett said. “I’m going to make that real clear.”
He paused for a second, in a state of disbelief.
“I can’t believe you asked me that. It kind of hurt me,” Barrett said, laughing and tapping his heart.
Questioned allegiances aside, the Cotton Bowl served as homecoming for Barrett and a sizeable contingent of Texans who play for Ohio State.
The Buckeyes have eight Texans on their roster, and more offensive starters hail from the Lone Star State than from Ohio. Barrett, running back J.K. Dobbins (La Grange), and guard Demetrius Knox (Fort Worth) all chose Ohio State over offers to play in their home state.
The Buckeyes’ appearance Friday in the Cotton Bowl gave most of the Texas families a chance to watch their Buckeyes close to home.
Ironically, Ohio State will be back in the same place in just nine months. The Buckeyes return to Arlington in the third game of the 2018 season for a neutral-site game against Texas Christian.
But for Barrett, who was injured when the Buckeyes played for the national championship at AT&T Stadium in 2015 and playing in his final game, the Cotton Bowl game was the closest he ever played to his relatives as the quarterback at Ohio State.
“Yeah, it's cool,” Barrett said. “Family members of mine are from Houston [and] in a little town called Bruner, Texas. Being able to come to the game was hard for them, but being in Arlington, it's good for them to come watch.”
When the bowl announcement arrived, the OSU Texans had something else in common: Many, many requests for tickets.
“It’s a lot,” Dobbins said, smiling. “I couldn’t even tell you the number.”
Barrett will leave Ohio State as the winningest quarterback in program history, and with a collection of records: most total touchdowns, passing yards, total yards, and most touchdowns in a single season.
Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said Barrett has “done so much for me and so much for our program,” and he wanted the senior quarterback to finish his career with a good showing in Texas.
“J.T. has done it all for us,” Meyer said before the game. “Now it's an opportunity to close out his career in his home state and say he's a Cotton Bowl champion.”
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