NORMAN — After the 31/2 quarters of Saturday night football and a round of questions from media, Jesse Paulsen dropped into the ice tub mentally exhausted.
Going into the Sooners' game Saturday against Florida A&M, Paulsen knew he would get to see some plays at safety, but he hadn't expected to start during the middle of the first quarter.
Honestly, he hadn't mentally prepared for that. But when injured starting safety Tony Jefferson pointed at him and said, “You're in, bro,” Paulsen felt a rush that had been building up for the past two years.
Paulsen's path to his playing time Saturday night is a story of hope for so many players who think it will never be their time.
The path begins in New Mexico. Paulsen used to play 7-on-7 against the state's best player. Quarterback Landry Jones was the big guy who was always put in the spotlight. Paulsen was the little guy who never really received the attention.
He started his college football career in 2008 at New Mexico, where his dad is a strength and conditioning coach. Paulsen redshirted a year there and played until he was a redshirt sophomore. That's when the tape he sent in found Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.
Soon enough, Paulsen found his way as a walk-on at Oklahoma.
Then came 2011 — his junior year — when Paulsen was ready to help the Sooners. Instead, he found himself sidelined with a broken foot.
This summer, he was working out in the weight room when he received a phone call from Stoops. Paulsen figured it was a call about something he had done wrong. When he hung up with Stoops, he turned around and called his father.
“Dad. They offered me a scholarship.”
“He was whooping and yelling,” Paulsen said.
Then came Saturday night against Florida A&M. Paulsen first realized he was going to play earlier than expected when he saw Jefferson hobbling around with a sprained ankle.