There are three questions I answered a lot during my time at OU. Why did I come all the way out to Oklahoma form DC? what is my major? and do I play football? Yes. I was an OU Football player: for three weeks. I am not counting the previous three weeks that I had spent trying to clear NCAA compliance. When I first got there at 5 AM on a tuesday morning, I was wide eyed, I had my OU football issued shirt, shorts, girdle and shoes. I was shocked when I received a girdle because I had only wore it with football pants. The football equipment manager saw the look on my face and infamously said, “what? you never played football before?”. I was given a blank locker that a cubby that I could open up and store my stuff in. I shared this locker with one other person. Forgot who it was. My locker was near some of the team’s biggest stars including Dom Whaley and Landry Jones. Ok Dom was not a star at that time, but he would be later. Seeing Landry, Tom Wort, Travis Lewis, Kenny Stills, Lane Johnson, Frank Alexander, James Hanna, Aaron Colvin, Tony Jefferson, Brent Venables, etc all in one place was surreal. I also saw familiar faces like the dude from Boot Camp, Geno Grissom and Trey Winters. It was great to see all of these people but I had to snap out of it and focus on what I had came here to do, which was to stay on the team and win. The first workout was hell. Tuesdays and Thursdays were for coaches stations. They were at 5:45 in the morning, you had to be early, you had to have on the exact same uniform as everyone else (unless you were hurt or in trouble because of breaking team rules) there were about 8 or 9 stations led by coaches from each position, they were either football simulator drills or straight conditioning/footwork drills and you could not mess up in the drills unless you wanted to run extra after practice. We were all split into groups for these stations. During my very first session, I got through the first two or three drills, then the next thing you know I’m breathing hard and fast with my chest burning. It was at that moment I truly believed I was going to throw up, die or both. I had stopped to catch my breath and out of nowhere, the team doctor (or something like that) said, “step out, you’re out of shape” I was offended but he wasn’t lying. He was a life saver. The hardest one of them all was the drill led by Jerry Schmidt (smitty). We had to get on all fours, chop our feet while waiting for further direction to do stuff like seatroll or jump in place. It was hell, I really regretted eating those ribs the night before. I was the most tired I had ever been in my life. I have no idea how I made it to class after that. That first workout was about as bad as any whippin’ I had received as a kid, I really thought I was going to die. Rodney Pittman, a mentor of mine who played at the University of Illinois wasn’t kidding when talking about the intensity of college football, it was crazy!
In addition to coaches’ stations, we had weight room sessions which were no “walk in the park” either for lack of a better term. On the first weight room session, I met two other walk-ons at my positions and we were doing leg work. We did squats, leg presses and hurdle drills on the field. I was so sore the next day. I could barely move. In another session we did chest and abs I believe. We started with the bench press. I was like “ok, that’s easy, I can do that” We started with 8 reps of 185 pounds, 4 times (everything was to 4 because of the 4th quarter). The first time was easy, then I started struggling, eventually I could barely even lift 135 pounds. It was embarrassing, I also couldn’t do any pull-ups afterwards. I think the most embarrassing part was when we did abs. Everyone were doing situps with 45 pound dumbbells. I couldn’t even do them with 20 pounds! Workouts were killing me. Not sure how I got through those hurdle drills when my legs were so tight. I barely felt like doing anything. It’s amazing how I still tried to do boot camp fitness at the huff while temporarily being on the team. One time I skipped a weight room workout then showed up to a running backs meeting later that afternoon, Dave Driskill, one of the fullbacks, asked me “where were you today? why didn’t you come to workouts?” I said, “I had a meeting with a teacher”. Driskill gave me a really blank stare like what I said sounded foreign to him. My excuse was lame but it was partly true. I did meet with a teacher but I didn’t have to, I could have made workouts. I chose a meaningless meeting over a workout because my body was sore and I was scared of what was going to happen next. Another thing I remember about football is the concussion test I had to take. I went into the indoor complex and went to some room with a small computer. It was a test composed of random questions and puzzles. It was weird but necessary.
A really fun part my time with the team was the non-football related competitions that usually happened after coaches’ stations. Bob Stoops absolutely loved these whenever he was there. I only took part in one competition. The team did crazy stuff like wrestling, tug of war and some thing where the coach will throw something that looked like a beach ball down the field while two people have to run, try to get it, then run back. It was all fun to watch to be honest. The one competition I took part in was the basketball tournament. I went in there thinking I was going to destroy these guys because I play pickup Basketball at the same on campus recreation center that the tournament took place, “The Huff”. Boy was I wrong! In the 3 or 4 games we played I may have had a few rebounds but thats it, no points, no assists, nothing, I barely even got the ball. I was completely outmatched on the court with these guys. Nobody could shoot but the athleticism and ball handling certainly made up for it. Almost everyone could dunk, especially a young Lane Johnson who was basically dunking on everybody, he looked unstoppable. I’ll never forget one of the few times I did get the ball, Kendal Thompson guarded me, I tried to put some isolation moves on him, he was with me every step, I was shut down. This QB was definitely just as athletic as some of his skill position peers. However, I got my revenge three years later when we played pickup basketball at the huff one year later. Not sure who won the tournament but it for damn sure wasn’t my team haha.
On what would be, my second to last day with the team, we had yet another running backs meeting. At this point, I was starting getting used to coaches’ stations, weight room workouts, I was getting ready to receive my equipment and be mentally prepared for spring football practice, you know, actual football not just workouts. Some of the team started to recognize me more, I started to look up to Dom Whaley as a mentor because he was where I wanted to be. He was a walk-on but he was clearly the hardest working player on the team. Coach Gundy would announce his weight room and 40 yard dash numbers, they were always better than everyone else’s and they kept rapidly improving. In the back of my mind I was like, “this guy is going to start someday”. He was slightly outperforming Roy Finch and Brennan Clay who were recruited to take Demarco Murray’s place, especially Roy Finch was trending downward into Coach Gundy’s doghouse at the time. Anyway, at my last running back meeting, Coach Gundy pulls me and the two other fullback walk-ons aside. During this small conference he goes on tell us that only one of us could make the team. I was shocked, like my heart had been ripped out. As I evaluated my time on the team, I eventually realized that it was between me and the shorter, stockier guy that was a junior who had tried out before. The other walk ons were hardly there to make an impact. When I compared me and this guy. I noticed that I was taller, more athletic, quicker and faster. However, the other guy was a harder worker, had a better relationship with the team, was stronger and in better shape. I never showed up to an after practice session to catch passes or run routes which probably hurt me too. I never fully bought into the program! Once I realized all of that, I knew my time with the team would be over. I showed up to coaches’ stations anyway. Wish I didn’t to be honest. The coaches were hard on us because it was the last day of winter workouts and they knew we would possibly slack off. I was going to give it my all but right off the back, Corey Callens, an athletic training assistant at the time, was about to pick a fight with me because I wasn’t doing the drill the way he liked it. I was clearly annoyed but I wanted no beef, so I gave him a weird look and he went OFF, embarrassing me in front of everybody. In the three cone drill, Jay Norvell kept making me do the drills over because I wasn’t doing it the way he liked it. Venables went off all the time, he was always high intensity, no chill at all but that day it was extra annoying. Of course Bob Stoops wasn’t there but I saw his car later. He was like a celebrity to me, I hardly saw him at workouts. The cherry on top was Coach Martinez, the DB coach at the time, went off on me because I didn’t get up fast enough after tackling a bag. He called me “a bag tackling practice all-american”. In that same drill, James Hanna, who would go on to play with the Dallas Cowboys, made me take extra reps just because he didn’t feel like it. He told me, “get your ass up there” like I was a scrub. I guess he had some right to do that as one of the key players on offense but I still didn’t like the disrespect. Thankfully, I had the energy to take the extra reps. The one good thing about this last day is that I got through the session without being sore or tired which means I was finally in great shape. When it was all over, I went to Coach Gundy to confirm that I wasn’t going to be on the team anymore. He did that and more. Coach Gundy calmly explained to me that I wasn’t in good enough shape, I wasn’t athletic enough and I needed to work harder. The talk he had with me about being cut showed what a great guy he was and why he’s still there today. He was blatantly honest with me without the extra stuff and I am forever grateful for that. I had a ton of demerits, which meant that I had to run after practice. I refused since I was technically not on the team anymore. Being cut from the team sucked, when I told Dom Whaley he burst out in laughter then felt sorry for me because I barely got any notice then I showed up to coaches’ stations anyway. Some of the other guys like Justin McCray felt bad too. Ultimately, I was relieved because I didn’t have to worry about the toll it took on my body anymore. I could finally stop being beat up. I truly believed that if I had made it to spring practice, I would have been destroyed. Like Coach Gundy said, I would have got myself hurt and someone else (I did almost get our starting LB, Corey Nelson hurt in one drill). Wasting no time, I grabbed everything out of my locker except the cleats, which I should have taken too but I didn’t have room to carry it in my hands. After that, I rushed to my 7:30 communications class with everything from my locker in my hand. I never stepped foot in that locker room again. I never played football (with pads) again.
Football had just stopped being fun. It seems like the higher you go in the levels of football, the less fun it becomes, which sucks but that’s just how it is. The higher the level of football, the more you have to love the game. Anyone can say they love the game. However, would you say the same thing after hard workouts, a disruption of your normal schedule, extra training, meetings, watching film, losing and all the other adversity that comes with football? You have to take the good with the bad! I’m also glad I avoided potential major injuries as I stated before. When people ask me if I still play football, my answer is simply, “no, not anymore, I’m done man”. That experience showed how football is much more mental than physical. If you don’t have the mental toughness, there is no point of playing. In this situation, football came full circle for me. It started out as a mental game for me and it ended that way too. You need the right mindset to play with the Oklahoma Sooners. They are thinking championship or bust everyday. Everything they do revolves around being the best program in the country. The Goat Level Brand will adopt that mindset to be successful. It just has to start with me. On the other hand, I was able to see firsthand why this football program was so successful. They not only get the talent but they work so hard, almost non stop. They started winter workouts just 3 weeks after the fiesta bowl. It made me appreciate the program that much more. With all these big names on the team combined with that system, you can see why this team was preseason #1.