STILLWATER — At Houston Jersey Village High School, Patrick Lavine was known as Pixie Stix, a reference to those skinny, straw tubes of sugar candy.
"We kidded him because he was so tall and lanky with no flexibility,” Jersey Village coach David Snokhous said. "But he could knock the crap out of you.”
Lavine still needs to improve his flexibility. But after spending a year in Oklahoma State's off-season strength and conditioning program, Lavine leads the Cowboys with 39 tackles.
It's been on-the-job training for Lavine since he arrived in Stillwater a year ago. He expected to redshirt after playing safety at Jersey Village. But he wound up starting nine games at linebacker.
"It was a big jump playing safety and then playing linebacker here,” Lavine said. "It was an even bigger jump playing Division I (football). I never thought I would be starting my first year.”
Lavine finished second on the team with 70 tackles to earn Freshman All-America honors. He recorded a career-high 11 tackles against Nebraska, the team the Cowboys face this Saturday.
"He really shouldn't have played last year,” coach Mike Gundy said. "I would have preferred to have not played him. But we didn't have a choice because of injuries.”
Lavine became a key cog for former defensive coordinator Vance Bedford's inconsistent defense, which showed enough improvement to help OSU rally for an Independence Bowl berth.
He started at weakside linebacker but moved to middle linebacker after Chris Collins suffered a season-ending knee injury midway through last season. He's played both this year but will move back to weakside linebacker once Collins is fully recovered from a turf toe injury.
Lavine is still learning the nuances of playing linebacker. But to make an immediate impact as a true freshman, at a new position, underscores his talent and determination to succeed.
"He was a real tough guy who could run well,” linebackers coach Todd Bradford said. "We're trying to recruit more speed at linebacker. He wasn't very big. But we felt we could beef him up and keep his speed.