"T hey also serve who only stand and wait.” John Milton wasn’t talking about backup quarterbacks when he penned his poem sometime around the birth of Joe Paterno. You know, the 17th century. But the poem fits the clipboard-holding, ballcap-wearing, easy-breathing quarterbacks who stand on the sideline not knowing if or when they will be summoned to duty. Grab your helmet, son. This team is yours. The call comes early for some, late for others and never at all for the unfortunate few. Joey Halzle waited 25 games. Charles Thompson waited nine, Jamelle Holieway waited four games and Eric Mitchel waited forever, God rest his football soul. Landry Jones waited a first half before he was handed the scepter of Oklahoma football. Asked to command the huddle and lead the Sooners to victory and become a state icon. Asked to finish off a fairy tale, penned not just by Sooner legends like Thompson and Holieway and Jimmy Harris, but the likes of Earl Morrall, the patron saint of backup quarterbacks. Saint Earl twice took over epic NFL teams in need of relief for fallen quarterbacks. He replaced the injured Johnny Unitas and took the 1968 Colts to a 15-1 record before a Super Bowl loss to the Jets. Morrall was named the NFL player of the year. Four years later, with the ’72 Dolphins, Morrall took over for Bob Griese and quarterbacked unbeaten Miami to 11 straight victories, including the AFC Championship Game, before Griese returned for the Super Bowl. Some backups get the glory all the way home. Six Super Bowls have been won by quarterbacks given the job by the fate of injury: Jim Plunkett, Doug Williams, Jeff Hostetler, Kurt Warner, Tom Brady and Trent Dilfer. Holieway did the same, college version, in 1985, leading the Sooners to the national title after Troy Aikman suffered a broken ankle. But Jones, for now, is being asked to drive down Earl Morrall Boulevard. Care-take this OU football team. Keep the huddle warm until Sam Bradford’s shoulder heals. Just win, baby. * * * Landry Jones is in the right place to make it happen. Oklahoma is the kingdom of backup quarterback success stories. As backups, Holieway won a national title, Harris fortified a winning streak that reached an historic 47 games and Thompson won a game of the century. "He’s got to gain the confidence of his teammates, that he can get the job done, that he can lead them to victory,” Thompson said of Jones. Thompson was a redshirt freshman in 1987 when Holieway suffered a severe knee injury in November. Thompson finished off a victory over Oklahoma State, led a tight win over hapless Missouri and then prepped for the showdown at Nebraska, in a game matching 10-0 teams that were ranked No. 1 and No. 2. Game of the Century II, it was billed, and the Sooners sported a quarterback with one college start to his name. But Thompson’s confidence in himself inspired confidence in his teammates. "I came in with the mindset I was as good as anyone on campus,” Thompson said, and he includes Holieway, who in 1987 was a junior running the wishbone as sharply as it had ever been optioneered. Personalities differ. The low-key Jones is not as brash as Thompson was and is. That doesn’t mean Jones can’t rally the troops. Bob Stoops says he looks for "toughness” in a backup quarterback. "A competitor in that he looks forward” to the challenge. Stoops said Jones was "absolutely ready for it.” Jones had an excitement, but a coolness, to his demeanor. He was calm and seemed to play that way throughout the Brigham Young game, when he took over at halftime for the injured Bradford. OU lost 14-13, just as Holieway finished off a loss to Miami when Aikman went down in 1985. But Jones’ play gives the Sooners hope he can deliver until Bradford returns. "We were always confident in Landry,” said OU center Ben Habern. "The poise he showed in the pocket gave us confidence.” * * * The speedy Thompson was a practice phenom. But his coach, Barry Switzer, always told him, "You’ve got to do it when the band’s playing.” Thompson’s first start, against Missouri, was sloppy, but a couple of days before the Nebraska game, Switzer "walked up to me and made the comment, ‘Charley Thompson, if you play on Saturday like you practiced, you will shock the nation.’” Thompson did just that, leading the Sooners to a 17-7, ball-control victory that gives hope to Landry Joneses everywhere. "I knew I had always prepared for this, playing quarterback at Oklahoma,” Thompson said. Preparation is paramount. As hard as it can be, a backup has to prepare every week like he’s going to play, even though odds are against it. Jones admitted he wondered when his chance might come but said he approached BYU week like he would have to play. Paid attention, studied film, focused on the task. Otherwise, Jones said, "I would have been lost out there.” Halzle spent three years, 2006-08, as the Sooner backup QB. "I took pride in making sure I prepared myself as the starter,” said Halzle. "Landry, he did the same.” Halzle finally got his chance in November 2007, when Bradford suffered a concussion in the first quarter at Texas Tech. Halzle struggled early in that game, then played much better late, and OU rallied before losing 34-27. "When you actually have to take the field, it’s a whole different deal,” Halzle said. "Adrenaline running ... 100 mph. Then it slows down. You’re just playing football, and you’ve played football for a long time. The more reps you get, the more comfortable you’re going to get.” That gives hope to the Sooners that Jones can be ready should Bradford not return for October showdowns against Miami and Texas. The Sooners already are seeing Jones mature as a leader. He’s quiet, by nature, but coaches say he was the lone Sooner on offense to show some grit and spunk in the halftime locker room against BYU. "He took that leadership role pretty quickly,” Habern said. "To see him take that role on gave us a lot of confidence.” Not every Sooner backup quarterback has ascended into lore. For every Jimmy Harris, there’s a Chris Melson. For every Jamelle Holieway, a Terence Brown. For every Charles Thompson, a Joey Halzle, who never started a game for OU. But Landry Jones has his chance. He no longer stands and waits. Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.