By Robert Przybylo Published: November 23, 2007
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Nothing is off limits when it comes to getting prepared for big games.

Some rock out to sports anthems. Some bounce to the latest beats. Others find their own personal zone and concentrate.

But football players at Bishop McGuinness and Heritage Hall have found a new way: poetry. And there's one poem in particular they can recite line-for-line any time, any place: "If” by Rudyard Kipling.

Challenged by Oklahoma City attorney and former Oklahoma attorney general Mike Turpen to be more than just football stars, members of both squads have stepped up to the plate.

Irish players Ryan Randolph, Niki Bray and Patrick Turpen as well as cross country runner John Vater have joined forces with Heritage Hall's Ford Price, David Price and Turner Petersen to form a poetry group. Anchoring the group is McGuinness graduate and Oklahoma junior Jack Randolph.

While there is no tangible effect to each team's 12-0 start, Heritage Hall has adopted the final line of Robert Frost's poem "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” as the team motto: And miles to go before we sleep.

"Whether it's the (poetry) group or a game, there's no stopping or slowing down,” Petersen said. "We have a ways to go before we're where we want to be. But we're working our way there.”

Mike Turpen said Kipling's poem has inspired him throughout his entire life, especially during his political days.

He was looking for a way to inspire the next generation of kids and found the values instilled in "If” are applicable no matter where you are in life.

"This is just great stuff, from beginning to end,” Turpen said. "You would be surprised at just how much wisdom is found in those four verses.”

Turpen sent out the poem to various members of both schools and seven of the eight answered the call. It wasn't until later that Petersen joined the group.

"I thought it was a bold move to do something like this,” said Patrick Turpen, Mike's son. "We weren't sure what we were getting into.”

But the boys don't regret accepting Mike Turpen's challenge and look forward to the twice-a-semester meetings.

They gather at the Turpen house and recite the poem to the group. They discuss how the poem speaks to them, and that's where the real gems are found.

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!”

— excerpt from "If”

The poem speaks to the Price cousins maybe more than anybody else. David Price was diagnosed with spinal meningitis. He had a tumor in his back that hemorrhaged into his spinal fluid.

"It was real tough,” Price said. "There were times when I really wanted to give up. But you read the poem, and the words are so strong.”

Mike Turpen's reward to the boys is $100 if they can recite the poem to him. It was that reward which led Ford Price to accepting the challenge, but it became much more than that.

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