Four years later, Lawton defensive lineman Patrick Diaz admits he thought he was going to walk right into a starting position and dominate from the start.
Then he got a look at the rest of his Wolverine teammates and the work they put in.
“To get in the weight room and see how much stronger everybody is than you, to get on the field and see how much faster they are, it's humbling,” Diaz said. “You kind of come into the game as a freshman thinking, ‘Hey, I'm going to start,' then you realize this game is pretty tough.”
Diaz played as a freshman, then blossomed into a three-year starter. As a senior, Diaz led Class 6A with 17 sacks and had 108 tackles, earning Oklahoman All-State honors.
“He's one of the most physical players around,” Lawton coach Randy Breeze said. “He's the kind of kid you like to have — a nice kid off the field but once he puts that helmet on, his eyes turn green and things change.”
Diaz said his experience early on did more than just give him a reason to work harder. It made him listen.
“The ability to be coached, I'd say that's the greatest thing that's ever happened to me,” Diaz said. “I want to absorb everything like a sponge. That's something that really had to develop.”
Diaz's father is a policeman in Lawton who also played football for the Wolverines.
So he was plenty aware of the tradition at Lawton before he arrived.
“The bar is set,” Diaz said. “I can't tell you one person on our team that doesn't have it in their mind that they want to set it higher.”
Diaz's performance this season set that bar pretty high. His favorite play of the season came not on defense but on special teams, where he batted down a potential game-tying field goal as time expired to give the Wolverines an 18-15 win over Edmond North late in the season.
It was a few weeks before that, in a 40-36 loss to Edmond Santa Fe, though, where Diaz started to think of himself as one of the state's top players.
“After that game, even though we lost, I felt like I had a really good game,” Diaz said. “I just thought that I've got to keep this up.”