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J.J. McCarthy’s philosophical heading into Ohio State: ‘Better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war’

Michigan’s quarterback aims to be a happy warrior.

Hawaii v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy says the team is preparing the same way they do every week.

Granted, this isn’t any other week.

It’s The Game.

11-0 Michigan at 11-0 Ohio State.

McCarthy knows the magnitude of the matchup. He says attention to detail will tighten up, and “everything’s gonna get amplified in a positive direction”.

McCarthy has a zen quality about him, he strives to find positivity and is a philosophical person in nature. McCarthy will post quotes on social media from the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Thoreau, and many others.

McCarthy meditates before games to clear his mind and be in the present. His high school coach says there’s “such a peace to him”.

“I would get nervous before a game, and he’d say, ‘Coach, Smile’,” IMG head coach Bobby Acosta said.

There’s no doubt that McCarthy’s attitude has rubbed off on his teammates, and head coach Jim Harbaugh, who calls McCarthy’s enthusiasm “like a kid in the candy store”.

Harbaugh has referred to the team as “happy warriors” on a “happy mission”, and this is a message McCarthy has expounded upon with Harbaugh.

“When he mentions that, I like going back to the quote, ‘better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war’ — we absolutely have so much joy playing this game and there’s that deep warrior inside of us that no matter what it takes, we’re gonna get it done.”

Having enthusiasm and a good attitude are key traits in a football player, but so is their ability to weather a storm and steer the ship in choppy conditions. Michigan’s heading into Ohio Stadium, a place that won’t be friendly to the Wolverines. McCarthy’s meditation has helped him zone out booing and trash talk. Harbaugh has been calling McCarthy “The Ice Man”. he’s always cool, calm, collected no matter the venue or the situation.

McCarthy said his meditation helps him envision he’s in his bedroom, at The Big House. No matter what environment, McCarthy “feels at home”.

“It’s really all just noise and all just a bunch of fans that like to boo you and don’t like you very much,” McCarthy said. “You just do whatever you can to transmute that and use it against them.”

McCarthy feels a lot of situations Michigan’s been through this year where they faced adversity, or being on the road in rowdy places like Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium will help Michigan this weekend.

Ohio State will be favored to win the game, No. 3 Michigan will be considered the underdog against the No. 2 Buckeyes, but that means nothing to McCarthy, he feels like the team is in the right place at the right time and ready for their big moment on Saturday.

“Feels like the stars are aligning, like it’s finally here. It’s meant to be and we couldn’t be more excited for it. We can’t wait to get out there and have some fun on Saturday.”

Per DraftKings, Michigan is currently a 7.5-point underdog versus Ohio State.

All odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.