INDIANAPOLIS — Two Cleveland natives and former Big Ten rivals are out to prove they can play quarterback in the NFL.
Ohio State's Cardale Jones and Michigan State's Connor Cook — both of whom won conference titles during their collegiate careers — met with the national media on Thursday at the league's combine and made their respective cases.
"This is not just your job, it's a career," said Jones, who's projected by some analysts as a mid-round draft pick in April. "I don't want a job, I want a career."
Jones, who helped lift the Buckeyes to the 2015 national championship and left school 11-0 as a starter, is known for his big arm and big body. During Ohio State's three-game postseason run, he threw for 742 yards and five touchdowns. The Glenville alum also measured in as the biggest quarterback in the combine at 6-foot-5, 253 pounds.
Jones, though, said he's as mentally sound as he is physically. "I don't think I get a lot of credit for how cerebral I am when it comes to being the quarterback," Jones said. "I think I'm ready for that level."
Still, Jones struggled with his passing touch and was benched midseason in favor of fellow quarterback J.T. Barrett last year. Jones called the experience a "disappointment" but said it was best for the team.
"Everything that happened was for the betterment of the team," he said. "My goals that I wanted to accomplish as the quarterback of the team, they don't outweigh the team's success."
Jones said he looks forward to doing some on-field drills at the combine — and not just throwing passing the ball.
"I'm really looking forward to the running part of it, the 40 and the vertical," he said. "I mean, dropping back and throwing the ball to guys in shorts and shirts, I don't think that's going to wow many people when I don't have any pressure, I don't have to avoid anything … I think the combine's going to be a good time to show what I can do, but I don't think too many people are going to say he had a great combine, he's going to be the best quarterback to ever play the game."
Cook, meanwhile, faced different obstacles in East Lansing when the senior wasn't named a captain for the Spartans and was hampered by an injury to his throwing shoulder.
"I think there are a lot of misconceptions about me, and I think I can settle those in the team meetings, with the coaches, with the GMs. Let them know who I am as a person, get up on the board, show them I can draw up anything versus a certain defense. Dial the blitz, I can redirect the protection to pick it up," said Cook, a Walsh Jesuit Alum.
"Anything that I can do to show them that I'm not just a good football player, but I'm mentally sound, I know the game inside and out, and that I'm just a complete football player."
Cook added his confidence might be conflated with arrogance.
"Being a quarterback, you've always got to be confident. Not just a quarterback. Any sport — basketball, baseball — in life, if you're just a businessman, you've got to be confident. I've always been confident in myself, no matter what it is, no matter who we're playing," he said.
"I always believe in myself, and maybe that's what they get it mixed up with … I respect my opponent, no matter who it is. I'm just a confident individual."