STILLWATER — Given a second chance to play football at Oklahoma State, linebacker Jeremy Nethon sounds like a preacher when he talks to teammates.
“Having everything taken away from you, this experience changed my life,” Nethon said. “I’m constantly trying to pass on to the younger guys what I went through. I feel I need to tell someone my story.”
Nethon’s story is about making the most of a mulligan. One of seven players dismissed from the team during Mike Gundy’s first season as head coach, Nethon walked on, re-earned a scholarship and is the starting weakside linebacker.
“He’s like a cat with nine lives, and he’s used seven of them,” Gundy said. “There’s a chance he’ll use two more before he graduates. But he came back and said, ‘It was my fault.’ That doesn’t mean they’ll always follow up. But he did.”
A 6-foot, 225-pound senior from Beggs, Nethon is coming off the best game of his career. Nethon recorded a career-high 11 tackles against Alabama to earn defensive MVP honors in the Independence Bowl.
That’s a startling contrast compared to where he was two years ago, when Gundy called him into the office and told Nethon: “You don’t go to class, you don’t play here. Hit the road.”
For the first time in his life, Nethon learned there were consequences to his actions.
“I didn’t realize it’s actually a privilege to be here,” Nethon said. “Coaches always say that, but I didn’t listen. I was immature. I didn’t do the right things. Now I’m an example for the young players.”
An example of what not to do.
His first two seasons at OSU, Nethon periodically skipped classes. He was sometimes late for team meetings. He played a key role on special teams and as a backup safety but barely scraped by academically.
“I would stay up late and be tired,” Nethon said.