By Greg Gulas
While signing autographs and greeting fans at the Everything Buckeyes store in the Eastwood Mall on Saturday, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett didn’t think twice when asked about the contributions of Austintown Fitch graduate Billy Price.
“He made Ohio State a better place,” Barrett said of this year’s Rimington Trophy recipient. “As a person, his leadership and how he attacks each and every day was outstanding.
“The work ethic that he had in order to get better, that was Billy,” Barrett said of his center in their final season as Buckeyes. “He took that work ethic each day and made a lot of people better. He really helped me in that area.”
During a stellar four-year college football career, Barrett led the Buckeyes to a national championship and two Big Ten Conference titles. He was a three-time Big Ten Quarterback of the Year and helped defeat archrival Michigan in four consecutive seasons.
The Offensive MVP of the Cotton Bowl (2017) and Fiesta Bowl (2016), Barrett went 38-6 in 44 games started, set 25 single season or career school marks and is the architect of several league standards. In all, he played in 50 games.
George Davis, a Niles resident and East High School alum, was one of the fans representing Buckeye Nation.
“I’m a big Buckeyes fan and have so many great football memories, but J.T.’s cool and calm demeanor as he led us back this year over Penn State was absolutely impressive and something I won’t soon forget,” Davis said. “I like his leadership, how he never gave up and want to wish him well in the upcoming NFL Draft.”
Cortland’s Colin Oaks, an eighth-grader at Lakeview Junior High, attended the game against Illinois with hs father, Clint.
“I met Beanie Wells when we were in Columbus, but J.T. is the face of the Buckeyes’ football team and I’m glad to have the opportunity to meet him today,” Oaks said.
Steve Christofis of Youngstown, who is retired from the Ohio Department of Taxation, and Boardman’s Jack Auman, a retired math teacher in the South Range School System, are longtime Buckeyes fans who have appreciated Barrett’s field generalship.
“I just want to wish him well and good luck as he moves to the next level,” Christofis said.
“This is a great opportunity for me to tell J.T. thanks for the many memories and also wish him luck,” added Auman.
New Middletown resident Kristin Evans was accompanied by her sister, Emily [Van Jura], and mother, Kaira.
“We love the Buckeyes, have a Buckeyes room in our house and any time we have the opportunity to add to our collection, we take advantage of it,” Evans said.
While Kaira claims to be the peacekeeper in the house, Emily was looking for Barrett to add his name to her A.J. Hawk autographed helmet.
“We’re all Buckeyes fans and I’m J.T.’s biggest fan,” Van Jura said.
Ray Hall of Niles is a sales manager for Wholesale Fireworks and works part-time at Everything Buckeyes, said that Barrett brings an awareness to the store.
“There are many area Buckeyes fans that don’t even know we’re located in the Eastwood Mall,” Hall said. “Bringing a player here with such a high-profile as J.T. Barrett helps create an awareness.
“Plus, it’s good for business and great for the entire mall.”
Barrett said he will continue his training regimen while preparing to take his game to the next level.
“I want to educate myself the best way I possibly can on how this process goes so I can put myself in the best position in order to be successful when it comes to the NFL Combine, Pro Day and actually getting drafted and then playing on a team,” Barrett said.