DALLAS — When prospective student-athletes visit Oklahoma's campus, they're introduced to lots of impressive people — from coaches and administrators to potential teammates — and marvel at the university's majestic athletic facilities.
Only three or four each year, though, are invited to the big white house on Boyd Street to meet university President David L. Boren. Four years ago, defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland was one of them.
“I was struck by what a fine person he was,” Boren said. “It was obvious to me that he's highly intelligent and very well motivated.
“He wanted to come here, not just to play football, but to get a good education. His mother really made that point forcefully to us.”
The Lufkin, Texas, native, who was deciding between Red River rivals, sat down with Boren and listened to what he stood to gain at OU — beyond stadiums, crowds and game day glory.
“It was all exciting to me,” McFarland said of the visit, “but meeting the president of the school was big. My mom and I are big on my education, and I knew they were serious about it at that point.”
Saturday, McFarland — who chose Oklahoma over Texas in one of recent history's most highly publicized recruiting battles — will suit up for his final Red River Rivalry tilt, which kicks off at 11 a.m. inside the Cotton Bowl.
The fascinating story of McFarland's intense recruitment was chronicled in a nearly 3,000-word New York Times article, which included excerpts from a comparative English paper he wrote about his OU and Texas experiences.
In the paper, he detailed a wild hotel party in Dallas during the 2008 Red River weekend, hosted by Texas fans. McFarland later said the school paper was “spiced up” and that he didn't know it would be quoted in the Times article.
Still, his life dramatically changed after the article was published. Texas fans ripped him on message boards and in Facebook messages.
“I've heard it all,” he said. “I've been called a traitor, to a this-and-that, but it's part of the game. I've learned how to take it not so much personal. They're having fun, too.
“I feel like I made the right decision.”
McFarland joined Oklahoma's prestigious President's Leadership Class — along with now-starting center Gabe Ikard, who also met with Boren during his recruitment — during his freshman year.
“I'm usually brought in when players express a desire to go more into detail about academics,” Boren said. “It's always gratifying to me.
“I've always enjoyed doing that, and I enjoy following their careers, just like I have with Jamarkus, Gabe and others.”
Boren said he still visits with both Ikard and McFarland when he goes to practices or is on the sideline at games.
Though McFarland hasn't quite achieved the level of on-field success some predicted he would — he's started just 14 of his 40 career games so far, although he's started all four as a senior — his academics have gone without a hitch.
McFarland is on schedule to graduate in December, remarkable because the senior never redshirted; the 12 college credit hours he earned in high school didn't hurt.
He's pleased with his three Red River performances so far, but wants to really leave a mark on the rivalry — beyond the recruitment and ensuing publicity — as a senior.
“It's a big week around here,” McFarland said. “Trying to live up to the name on the jersey, which has nothing to do with us. It's the whole state.
“But me personally, I'd like to stand out more and make plays (against Texas). It's every person's dream, in this game, to leave a history on those highlight tapes and stuff they have for the future.”