Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Letter to Oklahoma State Football Players (From a Fan)

Dear Oklahoma State Player,

I've often wondered how you feel as you walk down Hester Street on Saturdays. How it feels to have hundreds of people wave and cheer, offer high fives, and hold up signs with your name on them. I've wondered what you think when complete strangers ask for your autograph or hand you their orange-clad babies for a picture.


As a fan and alumnus, I've even wondered sometimes whether you feel used. If, perhaps, you're walking along thinking, "These people don't know me. They can't possibly care about me as a person...or know what I've gone through to get here. They're only cheering because I give them wins."

The truth is I'll never know how you feel when you make that walk on game days.

But I can tell you what it's like to watch and cheer and offer high-fives to the young men who've chosen to play football at Oklahoma State.

I'm delighted when one of our Cowboys makes good--whether that's getting signed to a pro squad or being hired to coach high school ball. Come to my house on Sundays and you'll see me cheer like crazy when Kendall hits the gap in San Franciso, when Dan drills it through the uprights in JerryWorld, or when Dez drags defenders ten yards after making the catch. Like the rest of the Cowboy Nation, my husband and I shed bitter tears when Darrent Williams was killed--then wiped our eyes for a different reason when Donovan Woods earned his Super Bowl ring. (I still have your jersey, Number Eight.)

I don't know how you feel about us--the fans and Alumni. But here's how we feel about you:
                                                                         
Good looking kids, huh?
 
 
The day you chose Oklahoma State, you became family.

You're family because we realize you had other options. Some of you committed to Oklahoma State when our stadium was a joke (Rust-Oleum, anyone?) and our record was worse. And even after we started winning, we understand that a kid growing up in Houston or Dallas could opt for the 'bright lights, big city' experience at a larger school.

Yet you chose Oklahoma State.

And that makes us family.

Are families perfect? Heck, no. We mess up sometimes. We struggle and make mistakes, especially when we're young. (I've always claimed partial credit for Eskimo Joe's phenomenal success. Thankfully, I've matured since.) We're not perfect. We don't expect you to be perfect, either.

And we don't stop loving you when you're not.

Ask anyone from the O-State family about Prentiss Elliot (former player who got into legal trouble) and you'll get: "I heard he's doing better now, and I'm glad." Even after the furor this week over the Sports Illustrated article, an alum tweeted about Artrell Woods (a major source): "Makes me sad. I cried when he caught that catch (after coming back from a terrible back injury)."

We want you to succeed. We're sad (for you) if you don't.

Because you're family.

So when you see me cheering for you on Saturday, know this: I'm cheering because you decided to work, sweat, and study at the university where I met my husband, earned my veterinary degree, and where I want my children to attend.

Because you chose Stillwater, we've heard the same chimes ringing from Edmon Low, walked on the same sidewalks (with their goofy chalk reminders), and sat in the same freezing classrooms. You know better than to swim in Theta Pond (and to visit Voodoo Village if you got suckered into it), and you've felt Gallagher-Iba rumble when the Sooners came to town. Like me, you've waited in line at Whitehurst, cussed the walk from Morrill to Ag Hall, and wondered what genius came up the name Classroom Building.

That makes us family.

After college, whether you wind up in Houston or Chicago or Los Angeles, try this experiment:

Put on your OSU gear and walk around. See how long it takes until someone flashes you the 'Pistols Firing' sign or says "Go Pokes." It's happened to me in places like New Orleans and San Diego and Seaside, Oregon. I guarantee it'll happen to you.
                                                    
 
 
 
If you're the gregarious type, stop and tell the person you played football--then get ready to be peppered with questions about your life and career and whether you have kids and how often you get 'home' to Stillwater.

Because that's what family does.

How does it feel to be a Cowboy football player? I'll never know. But I can tell you how it feels to be an OSU alum...

...it feels like coming home.


Cheers...and Go Pokes!

-T

36 comments:

  1. Beautiful commentary!!! You've wonderfully expressed the feelings of thousands... (smile) May your life continue to be blessed with a heart like that...

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  2. That's a great tribute to OSU. And even though I'm and OU junkie, I respect OSU because, well, we're all okies. :) I like TU as well. I cheer them all on, until the play OU. ;) hehe Miss seeing ya!

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    1. I've been gratified by the response from OU fans. Hope you're doing well, Ashlynn!

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  3. BEAUTIFULLY said! You (obviously) wrote this from the heart, and that's what you do when you're family.

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    1. True! And just let me tell you about my writing sisters!

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  4. Thank you for expressing our "orange" feelings for us. I love your blog!!

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  5. So happy you enjoyed it. Go Pokes!

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  6. I've been a student athlete at OSU for 4 years... I still remember the first time I visited Stillwater, you hit the nail on the head, that "Home-y" feeling is what convinced me to move 10 hours away from home. It doesn't take much more than a drive down Hall of Fame to know this place, and its people are different :)

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  7. As a former player, this is great to hear. Often times I wondered those very thing. Will these people care about me after my eligibility runs? Do they even want to know me outside of the uniform? I think I can speak for most former players, Thank you in expressing your love for us because after the playing days are long gone, you still wonder if you ever mattered to the fans and alums.

    PS. Rust-Oleum built character in a lot of former players especially the "original" walk that went along Hall of Fame.

    Sincerely
    Jason K. Johnson
    Cowboy Football
    1997-2002

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    1. What a lovely comment, Jason. So happy it resonated with you.

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  8. thank you so much for sharing!! i have 2 sons that have had the priviledge of playing football at o-state...so i guess i kinda know how it feels....i plan on printing you comments and sending to both! so go pokes...go cooper bassett (grad asst at mizz) and go dawson bassett (redshirt freshman at osu)

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    1. You should be SO proud of you sons! Go Pokes!

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  9. Beautiful! I MISS STILLWATER. Glad to find someone else who loves it as much as I do. Going to twitter right now so I can start following you.

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  10. PRICELESS JENNIFER!!! Thank you for allowing us to be apart of the Cowboy Family and Nation.. Those sentiments were warm and heart-felt. I, like Jason, always wondered how fans felt about us. But, I can truly say after my first year of playing, and UNTIL THIS DAY .. I have always felt the "LOVE" from fans that happen to remember me LOL. When I mention being a player, even to athletes I coach, I see the genuine excitement coming from their reactions. OSU fans remember and ask how I have been, what I am doing now and so forth ... EXACTLY how you explain it in your letter.

    Thanks for the LOVE ;-)
    I will always enjoy being a Cowboy!

    Sean Love, #4
    Senior Captain
    Cowboy Football, '95-'99

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    1. Heck yeah I remember you! How very cool this is...like an enormous family reunion.

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  12. Thanks so much for saying this much better than I could. I feel the same - about all our athletes in all OSU sports. I've had the "guns up" sign and "Go 'Pokes" comment in Italy and England as well as all over the US, too. We truly are family.

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    1. Good point about ALL our student-athletes! ;-)

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  13. This brought tears to my eyes!! Always, always, ALWAYS, Loyal and True! GO POKES!!

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    1. Do you get choked up during the Alma Mater? I do...every time!

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  14. This was spot on! I grew up in Stillwater. I swam at the Colvin Center pools, played hide and seek, went bowling and saw movies in the Student Union. Performed in dance recitals on the stage in the Seretean Center and attended tennis camp on the courts that used to be south of the stadium. I went to school with coaches, professors, and staff members kids. We were all over that campus! My brother had his picture in the paper for catching an enormous turtle out of Theta Pond and we had family and senior pictures taken there. I thought when I graduated high school I wanted to get out of town, go somewhere different. Well, Stillwater and OSU called me home and I eventually worked on campus and graduated from OSU. My kids knew that campus, buildings and classrooms long before they were old enough to attend themselves. Stillwater and OSU is in my blood! When I was told at eight years old that we were moving to a place called Stillwater, I had no idea what that would really mean to me so many years later. I have always been proud to be a Cowboy from Stillwater, OK! Oklahoma State has incredible academics and athletics and just keeps getting better and better!!

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  15. T.D.
    As a former player from the early 70's, this letter means a lot to all of us. Although times have changed so much over the past 40 years, from a Rusty stadium to the current confines these athletes thrive in now, we still felt the excitement of playing football at one of the greatest Universities in the country, and in one of the best conferences also, the Big 8. I was fortunate to meet my wife of forty years in Stillwater, raised 2 sons who both graduated from OSU, and I am very proud to state the I was a former player at OSU. Thank you for the lovely letter as the family atmosphere is why I came to OSU in 1969 from Louisiana to play for the Cowboys and why I will continue to support them through thick and thin..

    Mike Robichaux
    Quarterback
    1969-1972

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    1. You're even a few years before my time ;)

      Good to know the 'family' spirit was well-developed before I hit campus in 1983.

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  16. Your commentary is beautiful...hits the heart strings for sure and totally captures my emotions. Forever Orange!

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    1. Orange is a beautiful color, isn't it? :-)

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  17. Thank you so much for expressing in words what is in all of our hearts. Your well written words brought tears to my eyes. We are family....every day in every situation. Proud to be a Cowboy and part of the Cowboy Nation!

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  18. Very well said. My husband and I cheer on the current players and follow all the ex-players too and root for them not only to play well but to succeed in other ways too. We wear our OSU shirts out here in Nevada and we enjoy the friendly comments and how many OSU fans we find! Lucy

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  19. I also want to thank you for expressing our family thoughts. I graduated in the Thurman Thomas (34 dive) era and the 21/20 losses. I cried bushels of tears every time but proud to wear my orange the next day. I was stopped Saturday in a grocery store and asked how we did against West Virginia. The person was shocked that we had lost. It just wasn't our game and I still love our boys in orange. I brainwashed my kids at an early age that OSU is the only place to go to school and my daughter is going there now. She loves it and it is really special when she talks about going places and doing things as I can see me doing the same things years ago.
    Thanks again for expressing and I hope all of the football boys and the people participating in any other sport or activity read this and realize that we love them all just like family.

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