NORMAN — Landry Jones took some time after the expiration of his most recent term to reflect on his time in office, and to choose a future path.
Like many holders of high office deciding on their next steps, Jones formed an exploratory committee, made up of those closest to him.
The highly religious man relied on his faith, seeking guidance through prayer before deciding to make one final push to complete his ambitious agenda, set forth years ago when he assumed his powerful position. The choice was the best one for his family; it's also one that allows him a final say in how his legacy will be written in the long, illustrious history of his nation.
In January, Jones announced he would serve his final term as quarterback at the University of Oklahoma, choosing to temporarily put aside NFL riches for another season in the near-the-South-Oval office.
Jones, owner of 13 Oklahoma passing records, needs four more wins to become the program's all-time winningest quarterback. He's a perfect 3-0 in bowl games, and is frequently mentioned as a serious Heisman Trophy contender.
Even with that list of achievements, the senior's level of support in Sooner Nation is tough to gage. The home of the Sooners is filled with passionate and dedicated alumni, fans and students who can sometimes make up a fickle constituency.
To be fair, Jones does enjoy strong support from much of his body politic, which includes the more than 80,000 who reside inside the nation's capital on certain fall Saturdays, and countless more around the state and nation.
Still, a vocal faction has expressed their disappointment in Jones for his sometimes head-scratching decisions, ugly turnovers and poor finish statistically to the 2011 season.
This is the term-limited Jones' last shot to win over those fans, many of whom wanted him to enter the NFL Draft rather than delay what they feel is Blake Bell's inevitable assumption of power.
“You just have to realize what you are capable of and what you are out there to do, and leave everything else kind of off to the side,” Jones said of dealing with the criticism. “You have to focus on what you can control.”
Bell emerged a hero during the final six games of last season, when Jones began temporarily signing over to Bell his quarterbacking powers in goal-line and short-yardage situations.
The then-freshman Belldozed his way into the end zone 13 times, and accounted for 11 of OU's final 14 scores of the season. Despite Bell's single completed pass in four attempts, with one interception, many anxiously are awaiting his coronation.
Jones, of course, didn't and doesn't have to be elected by Sooner fans. Ultimately, being chosen as a Sooners quarterback requires the final approval of just one man, and the incumbent has long enjoyed coach Bob Stoops' endorsement and complete confidence. Sometimes, when Stoops is on the stump, at Sooner Caravan campaign rallies or during media sessions, the coach's defense of his quarterback becomes passionate.
“I didn't ask him to have to improve on anything,” Stoops said in July. “I asked about ten guys around him (to improve).
“Everybody (said), ‘Landry struggled.' No, he didn't. The offense struggled. ... To me, it's more of an issue of the offense and the offense around him than it is him.”
So what must the soon-to-be winningest quarterback in school history do to secure broader support from the fans to whom he's chosen to give one final term?
Win another Big 12 championship? No, probably not going to be good enough. Become OU's sixth Heisman Trophy winner? Maybe, but he'll probably have to take his talents South Beach in January 2013 and leave a national champion.
“The expectations are what they are,” Stoops said. “He isn't any of those other guys. He's Landry Jones and we love him. I think he's getting ready to have a great year.”
LANDRY JONES' CAMPAIGN SLOGAN
“Practice makes perfect. I've been doing it for five years.”
This was Jones' answer earlier this month when asked about how comfortable he was with all that comes with being an OU quarterback. During Jones' media sessions, he is always kind and respectful, while remaining soft-spoken and often dry in his answers. The above “slogan” would seem just about right were Jones a candidate for office; he's been around a long time and brings lots of experience, but also isn't one to speak extensively about his own strengths.
LANDRY JONES' ENDORSEMENTS
* OU coach Bob Stoops: “He's about to be the all-time leading passer in our history and that's with guys like Jason White and Sam Bradford and Josh Heupel. ... That pretty much says it all.”
* OU co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel: “He has continued to grow and continued to try and perfect his mechanics and what he is doing with his decision making with the football. Landry played extremely well for a lot of football games here. He would like to put 13 of them together and take us to the championship. That is the reason he came back and those are the things he is pushing for every day.”
* Quarterback guru George Whitfield, Jr., to ESPN.com: “He's an extremely tough individual. He's been in all kinds of wars and big-time matchups at Oklahoma. He's shouldered that offense the better part of three years. ... He understands the game, pre-snap. He just has such a command in terms of his football acumen.”
* OU cornerback Demontre Hurst: “He's a great quarterback ... one of the best in the nation. If I keep competing against him, I know for a fact I'll get better. He's stepping up and being a better leader, and trying to lead his offense, and trying to be better from his mental lapse last year.”