DALLAS — Cooper Bassett knows the college football world isn't paying much attention to his team or its game during this bowl season.
Doesn't matter to him.
He's fired up to play Purdue in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. He's excited to wear the Oklahoma State uniform one last time.
“As football players, we train and prepare for 365 days,” the senior defensive end said. “We only get 12 opportunities guaranteed a year.
“If you're lucky enough, you get a 13th game.”
Few believe the Cowboys are lucky to be in this lowly bowl, but Bassett is one of those guys who doesn't care where they're playing or who they're facing. All that matters is that they're bowling.
Truth be told, it's players like Bassett who make bowls relevant.
Evidence grows that the bowls don't matter like they once did. There is a four-team playoff is on the horizon. There is an ever-growing number of teams going into bowls with interim coaches or coordinators. There is chatter that change may be coming to how bowls are organized and funded.
What keeps bowls going are the players and the fans who cheer them. They are the ones who care about these games.
And no one cares more than Cooper Bassett.
Last we saw him after an OSU game, he had been reduced to tears. The loss at Baylor and the Cowboys' two-game, late-season slide hit hard the hulking lineman.
But he didn't apologize for his emotions. That's just how much he loves playing college football.
More succinctly, it's how much he loves playing for OSU.
Bassett grew up a Cowboy fan. He bled so much orange that when his hometown of Tuttle gathered to celebrate Sooner star Jason White with a photo, the 13-year-old Cooper wore his Cowboy cap.
Playing for OSU has been a dream come true.
“As the program grows ... I just hope there's going to be always be a collection of Oklahoma kids that don't just get on the team but have an influence, have an impact on the team,” Bassett said. “We get great players from everywhere, but I think the heart of the team is going to come from kids who grew up loving OSU.
“I hope there's always going to be Cooper Bassetts on the team.”
His dad has put together a scrapbook for each of Bassett's college seasons. All of the books are filled with pictures and articles and mementos, and each and every piece of memorabilia causes a flashback.
“The wins make you happy in the moment,” Bassett said, “but the memories are what are going to make me happy the rest of my life.”
If the bowls were smart, they'd make guys like Bassett their poster boys. Trot him out in front of the masses. Ask him to talk about how he feels about playing college football. Have him explain why bowls matter.
Doesn't matter if the matchup isn't great.
Doesn't matter if the stage isn't grand.
The only thing that matters to Cooper Bassett is that this is another day to play.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.