STILLWATER — Following another grueling summer workout in early June, Jeremy Seaton suddenly needed to text a special photo to his mom.
The snapshot was of a simple piece of paper. But this piece of paper was a meal voucher that had surprisingly been waiting for Seaton when he returned to the Oklahoma State locker room.
“Well, what does that mean?” Seaton's mom, Cindy, sent in a reply to the photo.
“Guess,” Jeremy answered back.
Cindy concluded that her son would get some free meals over the summer. But the voucher meant way more than that. Jeremy, sophomore fullback, had been put on scholarship.
“I called her and said we're no longer paying for school,” Jeremy said. “It definitely was (a great feeling), because it was mainly coming out of her pocket. She was helping me the most. It meant a lot that I could call her and tell her.”
The reward is validation that Seaton's walk-on-to-scholarship journey — which perhaps can be defined most by transition — has been worth it. First, there was the gigantic adjustment from small-town, Class A high school football at Cashion to Division I, Big 12 football at OSU. And he's endured three position changes, from high school quarterback to college tight end/H-back to legitimate contributor at fullback.
“Jeremy has worked extremely hard and competes on Saturdays,” coach Mike Gundy said. “He is in there with the (first team) a lot and is deserving of a scholarship. That's one of the neatest parts of our job is to be able to tell a young man he is on scholarship now.”
Seaton starred as a bulldozing quarterback at Cashion, where he claims only one of his offensive linemen was bigger than him. But in walking on at OSU, his size was best suited for a tight end/H-back.
So Seaton used his redshirt season in 2011 to learn the proper technique for that position, such as footwork, hand position and lining up in a stance. He says it was more complicated than playing quarterback.
But with the Cowboys continuing to play a wide-open, spread attack that often uses four receivers and no tight ends, Seaton switched positions again the following year, this time to fullback. At that spot in the backfield, Seaton, who now sports a 6-2, 250-pound frame, has quickly embraced using his big body and strength to throw blocks and protect the quarterback.
“I know what it's like to be back there (in the pocket) and I know what I wanted my (blockers) to be doing,” Seaton said. “Now I get to be that guy.
“You just take a lot of pride in it. Basically, you know who you're going against, and it's 1-on-1 battles. And you just, basically, have to be like, ‘I'm better than you.' That's what it comes down to.”
Added running back Jeremy Smith: “Jeremy Seaton is a big, heavy guy. If you don't see him knock some heads this year, then you're just not watching the game.”
Seaton played in all 13 games in 2012, starting two. And he did get a glory moment in the season finale, catching a 16-yard touchdown pass out of J.W. Walsh's specialty package early in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
“I honestly blacked out during a lot of it,” Seaton recalled. “I remember running and seeing the safety bite down and so I was like, ‘Oh, please throw it to me.'
“I turn and I remember seeing the ball, and next thing I know Kye (Staley) is grabbing me, throwing me up and then I'm lining up for (extra point).”
And through his first two years, Seaton used a variety of means to pay for school.
He maintained a high enough grade-point average to keep his academic scholarship. He worked on a farm in May to save money for rent and other expenses. Cindy chipped in what she could. He took out loans to make up the difference.
Now, college is much less of a financial burden. Those summer meal vouchers have been replaced with fall training table grub. Maybe Cindy can add that cellphone photo to Jeremy's old bedroom back in Cashion, which he jokes Cindy has turned into a “shrine” displaying his football accomplishments.
Seaton will keep focused on football. He has modest goals for the 2013 season — some more playing time, a few extra receiving yards, maybe a touchdown or two.
And being on scholarship won't change the way he works. Because he's already lived the walk-on life.
“Walk-ons, they battle every day,” Seaton said. “I mean, scholarship guys, they definitely do, too. But walk-ons, you feel like you always have something over your head telling you, ‘Well you got to do this, or you don't have a chance.'”