San Diego is where Cardale Jones has been training for an NFL career.
But once upon a time in Cleveland, where his story began, there was no dream of becoming a professional football player.
“It is kind of hard to see that potential in yourself at a young age when you don’t have a lot of positive role models around you,” Jones told newsnet5.com's Lauren Brill.
His iconic grin was not always a sign of joy, often hiding his pain.
“You have to be mentally tough because you kind of, in a way, wouldn’t survive," the former Buckeye explained, "not just in our household, but you wouldn’t survive in the streets period."
While early on Cardale did not see a future outside of his neighborhood, his high school football coach, Ted Ginn Sr., did.
Ginn earned Cardale’s trust and ultimately aided Cardale in re-writing his future as he helped him reach the Ohio State University. Once he was in Columbus, former Buckeye offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Tom Herman, encouraged Cardale as a person and as an athlete.
“I was not even a back-up at that point and he was consistent, staying on me to continue to get good grades, stay on time and work hard,” Cardale said in regards to Herman’s impact on him.
In the 2014-15 season, Cardale got his chance to shine, becoming the team’s starting quarterback after two players went down with injuries.
Almost like a fairytale, Cardale won three straight games and led the Buckeyes to a national championship. He had the opportunity to enter the NFL draft, but decided to return to school.
“Definitely no regrets,” Cardale explained. “My education will last me 10 times more than where my NFL dreams will go.”
Those NFL dreams are starting in San Diego where his day starts at sunrise, training and studying with quarterback guru George Whitfield.
“We are trying to get them, for us, ready for day one of mini camp,” explained Whitifield, who is also training former Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook.
Despite the fact that Cardale lost his starting job this past season to J.T. Barrett, he is confident he can succeed at the next level.
“Look at the type of player I am. Look at the intangibles I have and definitely look at my potential,” Cardale said. “If I am in the right system, I think I can emerge.”
Cardale now has a pen in his hand, writing his next chapter, which includes a career on the gridiron and a chance to give his one-year-old daughter, Chloe Michelle, a better lifestyle than the one he had as a child.
The Cleveland native is clearly chasing the NFL with a bigger purpose than just himself, which is partially why that signature smile is now reflecting a life being lived happily ever after.
“I have been through so much, and a lot of people can attest I was not always smiling," Cardale explained. "So, every chance I get to smile now, I kind of take advantage of it.”