NORMAN — Aaron Ripkowski first showed his strength when he was 6 years old.
His dad, Randy, was at the kitchen sink when “little bitty” Aaron walked over and stuck his head between his dad's legs and lifted him off the ground.
“I weighed about 220,” Randy said. “I had to grab the sink from falling back.”
Ripkowski grew up loving everything that was tough and strong. He would become the Texas powerlifting champion; he could dead lift 650 pounds. Ripkowski had a chance to attend the Naval Academy. Instead, he chose to walk on at Oklahoma and now the 6-foot-1, 260-pound fullback is one of the most important parts to OU Belldozer set.
When backup quarterback Blake Bell comes out to perform the highly successful short-yardage package, he waits to read Ripkowski and fellow back Trey Millard and how they're blocking in order to find a hole to the first down or end zone.
The hits that “Rip,” as he's known to the team, lays on defenders were described with one word by coach Bob Stoops and tight ends coach Bruce Kittle: physical.
“I could put a highlight clip together of guys he's nearly put in the hospital off of that thing,” Kittle said. “At UTEP, he knocked out two guys completely.
“There's a guy from Texas who's still got a headache, I'm sure.”
That strength is what has some of the Sooners shaking their heads when asked if they'd like to go against the strong sophomore.
Although offensive lineman Gabe Ikard said he's never received a hit from Ripkowski, he's watched defender after defender get drilled by the Dayton, Texas, native.
Ikard compared it to a person running straight into a wall. He's just not sure whether that wall would be made out of brick or cement.
“I would not want to go against Ripkowski,” Ikard said. “He's one of the most physical football players I've ever played with, just in his attempts at knocking people down. It's pretty impressive just how much they end up on the ground.”
Ripkowski's mother, Marlo, said her son grew up loving tough things like G.I. Joe, weight lifting, four-wheelers and big jumps. She remembered the time when he cried at age 5 after she and her husband altered the hills so Aaron wouldn't break any bones from the jumps he performed on the four wheeler.
Ripkowski was 10 the first time he asked his dad to lift weights. Randy thought it was too early. Aaron begged and begged, but it wasn't until age 14 when Randy let him lift.
Last year, when Aaron had to sit out the Sooners game at the Insight Bowl with a back injury, the OU staff had a hard time keeping him from lifting weights.
Aaron's majoring right now in business management. He wants to own his own gym.
“He'd live in a gym if he could,” Marlo said.
The fullback might be a hard hitter, but he's not a loud guy. Ikard first described Ripkowski as a guy who “keeps to himself but he loves just hitting people.”
After the Belldozer gets a big first down or scores, Ripkowski will never be out there celebrating. His mentality, his mom said, is “I took care of business. I'm going back to the sideline.”
That's what Ikard, Bell and so many others love about him.
Ripkowski always finds his block and drills his man.
“He's one guy you say, ‘Rip, you've got that guy,'” Ikard said, “and you know that you no longer have to worry about that person on the field. Just because, you know …”