STILLWATER — Still seeking a kick-start to his career, Hubert Anyiam found himself a sudden focal point as Oklahoma State headed for Texas A&M a year ago.
Dez Bryant had just been suspended. Teammates, coaches, even friends were challenging Anyiam — who had three catches through four games — to step into the spotlight and deliver on the promise that accompanied him to Stillwater as a PrepStar All-American out of Garland, Texas.
"There was all this Dez talk," said Anyiam, a junior wide receiver. "I had people asking me, even telling me, 'You've got to step up.'' "
Maybe all Anyiam needed was a shove, as he came through with a breakout performance, catching three passes for 58 yards, including a 27-yarder for his first career touchdown, and scampering 13 yards for a first down on an end around in OSU's 36-31 win.
Now a year later, just in time for another critical clash with A&M, Anyiam's getting another shove, this time from himself.
Anyiam followed his big day in College Station with five more productive games, yet faded down the stretch as the Cowboys collapsed offensively. Things only worsened in the spring, when Anyiam suffered an injury to his foot that required surgery, wrecking his offseason workout plans and hindering his progress.
Until now? That's the hope, after Anyiam resurfaced with two touchdowns in OSU's rout of Tulsa.
While the Cowboys offense has been humming along, piling up yards and points, the quality of competition takes a significant uptick tonight. A healthy Anyiam offers another significant weapon, another deep threat and a potential deterrent, just in case the Aggies consider ganging up on Justin Blackmon, the nation's leading receiver.
"Hubert's looking back to normal," Blackmon said. "He's got the talent to do whatever he desires to do in this offense. He's a playmaker, when he gets the ball in space, he can make a lot of people miss and make a lot of plays."
Blackmon is enjoying a breakout of his own, yet it was Anyiam who topped the Cowboys receiving chart in 2009, finishing with 42 catches, 515 yards and three touchdowns.
"He was the leading receiver on this team last year," Holgorsen said. "He's got ability."
An added and often overlooked aspect of Anyiam's game is his presence as a willing and physical downfield blocker in the run game.
"So he brings a lot to the table," said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy.
The road back from the injury was trying. While the rest of the Cowboys learned the new offense of coordinator Dana Holgorsen and perfected the routes during the summer, Anyiam rehabbed and watched.
"Hubert had a tough summer," said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy. "Our guys do most of their conditioning in the summer. He didn't get any of that. So he had to play catch-up."
Said Anyiam: "That's been the big thing holding me back these last couple of months. My foot has been a pain. When it's not 100 percent, I just can't play the way I want to play."
How the injury occurred is equally frustrating, even now.
"It's one of the most ridiculous injuries I've ever seen in my life," Anyiam said. "I was just jumping for a fade (pass) at practice. Nobody was touching me. I came down on it and heard something pop. The trainers thought it was just a regular sprained ankle.
"I came in the treatment room, my foot was swollen real big. They found out it was a freak injury. It was like the ACL of the foot."
Still, Anyiam pushed himself to return ahead of schedule, which originally was set for tonight. And after minor moments in OSU's first two games, he caught three passes for 62 yards and his first two touchdowns against Tulsa, providing a confidence and momentum boost into the open week.
"A lot of the coaches were like, 'We're going to save you for Big 12,'" Anyiam said. "I was like, 'I need to play. I need to go out there and run around and do something.'
"They told me to be ready. I was ready."
Now he's ready for more. So are the Cowboys.