STILLWATER — It was quite the high school career for Jesse Vester.
The all-around Stillwater star is The Oklahoman's All-State kick returner after scoring 15 touchdowns and racking up 1,125 receiving yards as a senior.
This season saw its highs — his 300-plus all-purpose yards against Sand Springs and his four touchdown performance against Bixby — and its lows — ending the season with losses to Tulsa Union and Jenks.
But Vester is happy with how his senior year went, especially considering the turnaround under first-year coach Tucker Barnard. The Pioneers were 1-9 during Vester's junior year.
“Coach Barnard came in and preached that he would not let us accept defeat,” Vester said. “We made shirts, and on the back they said ‘Refuse to lose.' That was our motto when he came in March up until now. He's just carrying that on.”
Vester said Barnard's assistants, including offensive coordinator Paul Hix, also deserve credit for the turnaround.
“(Hix) came in and said ‘This is a playmaker's offense,'” Vester said. “He tried to get the ball in our playmakers' hands as many times as possible.”
Vester and fellow receiver Corey Hassel, an OSU baseball signee, combined for 2,306 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns from quarterback Jerame Littell.
The 2011 season really took on a special meaning when the Pioneers won in Week 7 at Owasso, a 6A semifinal team this year that had just come off a startling upset of eventual state champion Tulsa Union.
“We were sitting in the locker room after the Ponca City game, and one of our assistants who is from Owasso came in yelling, ‘Oh my God; Owasso just beat Union,'” Vester said. “So that's when we realized that was gonna be a pretty big game for us.”
Vester cites playing as a freshman as one of this proudest, most memorable achievements at Stillwater.
“That was pretty big for me,” Vester said. “Not many at Stillwater have gotten to play as freshmen, and those are guys like Matt Holliday and Josh Fields.”
Vester is still adapting to life without high school football, and it hasn't been easy, he said.
“We've been at the basketball games, and hearing the band play some of the same things they play at the football games is kinda heartbreaking,” Vester said.
“But life goes on. There's no better feeling than Friday nights; I'm gonna miss it, but bigger and better things are coming.”
He's hoping those bigger and better things are a college football scholarship.
“I've been in contact with Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Wyoming, Kansas and a couple small schools,” Vester said. “I just want to play football and get a chance to show what I can do, at any level. That's just the biggest goal for me.”