I’ve never been in more pain in my entire life.
My dad played football at Baylor, so I come from a football family. Pain and toughness come with the territory. But I’ve never felt something like this.
In 2020, an injury I sustained in a game revealed an infection in my leg, and the severity of the infection left me with more questions than answers at the time. I was a tight end for the Sooners, and I can honestly say I wasn’t worried about never playing football again.
I was worried if I’d ever be able to walk again.
I was incredibly scared when they took me to the surgery room.
No one knew how far the infection had spread and if they could save my leg.
As they were wheeling me through the hospital, though, I recalled a Bible verse my dad instilled in me at a young age.
2 Timothy 1:7, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.”
As I said that verse to myself over and over, I was no longer scared. I was reminded of God’s love and the sound mind he gave me to take charge of any situation I found myself in, including this one.
Even beyond my injury, that verse has become a major theme in my life, especially during my collegiate career.
There have been plenty of setbacks and obstacles along the way. As crazy as it sounds, though, even when I was at my lowest, I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.
My journey, with the tremendous highs and devastating lows, has made me into the person I am today.
And it’s helped me (re)discover the place I was always meant to call home.
The highs before the lows
While the recruiting process was a little overwhelming at times, I took to OU almost immediately. I committed during my sophomore year of high school, so I didn’t waste much time.
I visited a bunch of schools, but OU seemed like the perfect fit to me.
The offense they had, the success of their team, and the proximity to my home – it just felt right.
Nevertheless, the transition to college was a big step, especially being away from home for the first time. But I was lucky to have a great support system. I had teammates and friends who helped me navigate through that transition and made me feel comfortable.
To be honest with you, the start of my OU career couldn’t have gone any better. But football, and life in general, has a way of humbling you when you least expect it.
A home game against Kansas during the tail end of my sophomore season would soon change everything.
A life-changing hit
Before I took the field against Kansas, I remember feeling sick. I was pretty sure I had strep throat, but I wasn’t about to miss a game because of a sore throat.
During the game, I took a hit to my thigh that initially felt like a Charley horse. But the pain worsened throughout the day, and my knee started swelling up. It got to a point where walking became difficult, and I was in excruciating pain.
I called up my then-trainer Chris Watson in the middle of the night, begging him to take me to the hospital.
After days of tests and uncertainty, it turned out that I had an infection in my leg caused by strep throat.
I had to undergo surgery and spent several days in the hospital. I lost a lot of muscle in my leg and had to work harder than ever just to be able to get back on my feet and walk again.
But with the help of the OU medical staff and trainers, I was able to make it back eight weeks later to play in the 2020 Cotton Bowl against Florida. Stepping back onto the field meant everything to me. It symbolized overcoming adversity and the determination to not let anything hold me back.
Despite a life-changing and potentially career-ending injury, I was playing football again, and my goals and dreams remained ahead of me.
To this day, it’s hard to put into words how grateful I am for OU’s support during this incredibly testing time.
A Sooner for life
When I came back, I wasn’t exactly myself, though.
It wasn’t until I was about halfway or three-fourths through my junior season that I finally started to feel good again and play better football.
And after the season, things started to change at OU within the program. When Coach Riley left, that took its toll on the team.
At that time, I made the difficult decision to transfer to South Carolina for the 2022 season, wanting to make the best decision for myself and my career as a student-athlete.
But life has a funny way of bringing you back to where you belong.
I enjoyed my time at SC, but I found myself yearning to be back at OU.
The camaraderie, the history, and the standard of excellence — there’s just something special about being a Sooner.
I believed I had unfinished business in Norman.
So, I decided to take advantage of my fifth year and do something that’s quite unusual in college athletics — I transferred back to the place I transferred away from.
And ever since, the support I’ve received from the OU athletic department has been nothing short of incredible. The athletic director, Joe Castiglione, went out of his way to ensure that I could still graduate as a Sooner even after I transferred from OU.
That tells you everything you need to know about this university.
Once you’re a Sooner, you’re a Sooner for life, and it’s not just a catchphrase.
OU has looked out for me since the first day I arrived on campus, and I can’t tell you how much their support and guidance has meant to me these past few years.
Finishing what I started
One of the many joys of my return to OU has been establishing a relationship with Coach Venables. He’s truly an amazing person, as he genuinely cares about us as individuals and wants to see us grow not only as football players but also as people.
My hopes for this season are simple: I want to win football games.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that winning is more important than individual stats or accomplishments. It’s about the love and bond you share with your teammates, and the feeling of achievement that comes with a victory.
Looking ahead, I want to pursue a career in the NFL and play football as long as I can. But I’m also mindful of life after football.
My leg injury taught me so many things, but above all else, I learned that my career could come to an end at any moment, and I need to be prepared for the day when I hang up my cleats for good.
I never could have predicted this roller coaster ride, but I remain grateful for every twist and turn along the way. It led me back to where I belong in what’s become my home in Norman.
So, here’s to a great season and ending my college career in the Crimson and Cream.
I wouldn’t want it any other way.