STILLWATER — Jamie Blatnick used to make frequent visits to Caleb Lavey's house while they were growing up in Celina, Texas.
Blatnick would go over swim or play video games or just hang out — with Lavey's older brother, Josh, and older sister, Courtney.
“Man, I used to hate it when you and your friends used to come over and play Xbox and be mean to me,” Blatnick remembers Lavey telling him years later.
Back then, Blatnick was the big offensive and defensive tackle for one of Texas' most storied high school football programs. Lavey was three years younger and had not yet become the school's starting middle linebacker as a freshman.
Now, the duo is starting for the same defense again, as Blatnick and Lavey have become major contributors for No. 3 Oklahoma State.
And the folks of Celina, a town about 40 miles north of Dallas, are still following the pair.
“They're always talking about them — Lavey on the tackle, Blatnick on the tackle — and saying those guys are from Celina,” said Butch Ford, Blatnick and Lavey's coach at Celina High School. “Everybody's just kind of beaming in Celina because of it.”
Celina fits all the stereotypes of a small Texas town — population: 5,200 — that revolves around its high school football program, which has won eight state titles.
Stores close on Friday nights, and the players become public figures. The school was the subject of a documentary entitled “Power, Passion & Glory” and is featured in Kenny Chesney's “Boys of Fall” music video, where Lavey himself shows up several times.
And for the 2006 season, Blatnick and Lavey were teammates.
Blatnick was already a senior star on both sides of the ball who was fielding offers from OSU, Texas Tech, TCU and Duke. Lavey was the youngest player on the varsity roster who was occasionally picked on by his older teammates but also earned their respect.
“Jamie was very fierce in the game,” Ford said. “He just competed like a gangbuster. And Caleb was telling the seniors what to do, and they received it. That don't always work, but he just had that kind of personality where he could do it.”
Blatnick eventually chose to play at OSU and became a starter at defensive end. And when Lavey also began drawing interest from the Cowboys, Blatnick became his official guide to the program.
“(Jamie) got to talk to me about the school and he got to talk to me about the things that you don't get to see on visits, which helped me out a lot,” Lavey said. “I got a backstage pass for Oklahoma State, which was great. I couldn't have made a better choice, and Jamie helped me with that.”
Blatnick and Lavey have both blossomed for the Cowboy defense this season. Blatnick is tied for third in the Big 12 with six sacks and got a plug for All-Big 12 consideration from coach Mike Gundy earlier this week. Lavey ranks second on the team with 44 tackles in his first year as the starting middle linebacker.
Both players still feel a strong connection to Celina.
Blatnick spent time in the school's weight room during the summer, and Lavey went back to watch his younger brother, Jake, play during OSU's bye week. Ford now schedules his Saturdays around Cowboy football games.
“I hear at least a couple times a week how proud they are of us and that we're representing the town well and they love watching us on TV,” Blatnick said.
Blatnick and Lavey missed out on winning a title together when Celina lost to Liberty Hill in the 2006 Texas Class 3A Division II state championship game. But they have a chance to bring a national championship home if OSU keeps winning.
“It would be really neat for me and Caleb to both be on that team, both sporting rings,” Blatnick said. “That would be a good Celina Homecoming.”