STILLWATER — Brandon Weeden calmly holds his golf swing as the tiny white ball slams into a screen projecting the image of a fairway. Hanging from the ceiling of the simulator is a computer recording the distance and accuracy of the shot.
Welcome to the beginning golf class at Oklahoma State, where the Cowboy quarterback is undoubtedly the best-known student working on his game. It's the Tuesday before Bedlam, and Weeden and classmate Connor Sokolosky are discussing possible uniform combinations for the game in between swings.
“Yeah, I know what we're wearing,” Weeden says with a smile, without revealing the secret.
After class, Weeden will grab lunch with his wife, Melanie, before heading to team meetings and practice. The day might also include a trip to the academic center to work on his four online graduate classes.
Life is good for OSU signal-caller these days. His Cowboys throttled Oklahoma 44-10 to capture their first Big 12 title and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl against Stanford on Jan. 2. He has finished up a semester of graduate courses after earning his degree in management last year. He's OSU's all-time passing leader and a future NFL quarterback.
It's almost hard to believe now that more than four years ago, Weeden walked on at OSU without fanfare after a five-year career in professional baseball fizzled out.
He'll leave Stillwater as one of the OSU greats on the field — and one of the school's most recognizable figures off it.
“These last five years have been, without a doubt, the (most fun) five years I've had playing any sport,” Weeden said. “I wish I could start over from Day 1 and do it all over again. I'm pretty blessed.”
OSU coach Mike Gundy first met a 24-year-old Weeden in one of the football offices before the 2007 season. Gundy had scouted Weeden during high school, but he gave up on the quarterback when he heard Weeden would be a high baseball draft pick.
Yet there was Weeden, asking Gundy if he could walk on to the football team.
“I kind of joked with him that this is not minor league baseball,” Gundy said. “I really didn't think he'd make it.”
Weeden hadn't put on the pads in more than five years. He also hadn't attended a class, written a paper or taken a test since graduating high school in 2002. Getting back to both school and football would require major adjustments.
But his maturity, leadership and attention to detail showed early on. Academic counselor Terry Henley noticed that Weeden quickly linked up with former OSU running back Kendall Hunter, making sure he always had a ride to the academic center and was attending his tutoring sessions.
“Anytime that Brandon was coming up here, Kendall would be coming with him,” Henley said. “I didn't know anything about (Weeden), what his background was exactly, but I remember thinking ‘I don't know what kind of quarterback that guy's going to be,' but I remember seeing the leadership qualities that were present.”
Life on the football field wasn't easy, however.
Weeden was the third=string quarterback behind Zac Robinson and Alex Cate his sophomore season and in an offensive system that did not fit his style of play. He was constantly getting chewed out by the coaches, Gundy said. Safety Markelle Martin admitted that teammates used to joke that Weeden would probably throw an interception every time he took the ball during practice.
But Weeden kept hanging around.
“I firmly felt like I was the second-best quarterback behind Zac, and I think one of the hardest times for me was when they made Cate the backup,” Weeden said. “That was the adversity that I kind of had to overcome and just deal with.
“I've never been a guy that's going to quit. I'm too competitive. I was going to keep fighting for that job, and fortunately I did, because that Colorado game happened.”
“That Colorado game” — also known as Weeden's breakout moment in 2009.
Robinson was battling injury, and Cate went 0-for-9 in the first half. Enter Weeden, who after intermission helped lead the Cowboys back from an 11-point deficit to a 31-28 win.
That win gave Weeden the confidence that the following season, the Cowboys would be his team. And after that game, he was recognized by fans for the first time while celebrating the victory out on the town with kicker Dan Bailey.
It was the night that launched Weeden's career.
Two years later, Weeden is a record-breaking quarterback with the rare opportunity to turn pro in a second sport.
That high level of play makes you an icon in Stillwater. But Weeden's immense popularity also stems from his engaging yet easygoing personality that makes him relatable to fans.
He'll pose for pictures at the bagel shop on Main Street. He'll sign a hat after a class or say hi to students as he cruises around campus on his scooter. He'll interact with his 20,000 followers on Twitter. He doesn't mind being stopped nearly everywhere he goes in public.
“That's the least thing I can do is just be as friendly as I possibly can,” Weeden said.
Said Sokolosky: “He chats it up with everybody. He acts like a normal kid during class. It's not like he has some arrogance about him or anything. He's a down-to-earth guy. He's really cool.”
Weeden's journey has been far from regular, however. And that's part of the draw as well.
Some OSU fans will remember him as the hero who quarterbacked their Cowboys to unprecedented heights. Some will look at his walk-on-to-superstar story as an inspiration.
Weeden hopes he will leave a legacy as one of the best quarterbacks in OSU history. But he wants to be remembered more as someone who cared about people, and a guy who proved it's possible to change one's life path and find success.
“You're only given so much time to do certain things,” Weeden said. “You don't want to look back when you're 35, 40, 50 years old and say, ‘Man, I wish I had gone back and done something.'
“I've just always been a person that says, don't say, ‘What if?'”