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Oklahoma State football: Clint Chelf is Enid's hometown hero

Folks back home rode out the highs and lows alongside OSU's quarterback.
By Gina Mizell Published: December 21, 2013
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photo - Randy Chelf  talks about his son, Oklahoma State University quarterback Clint Chelf, and the impact his notoriety has on his hometown on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 in Enid, Okla.  Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman
Randy Chelf talks about his son, Oklahoma State University quarterback Clint Chelf, and the impact his notoriety has on his hometown on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 in Enid, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman

— Randy Chelf trudged out to the driveway to get the newspaper at around 6:30 a.m. a few days before Bedlam.

Through the darkness, he spotted neighbor Mike McCormick. Everyone around knows that family is full of avid Oklahoma fans. The Sooner flag on the front of the house that flies every Saturday in the fall serves as a clear reminder.

But that was about to change for Bedlam.

“Hey, I just want you to know we're cheering for Clint and the Cowboys this one Saturday,” McCormick told Randy.

Clint Chelf's up-and-down journey as Oklahoma State's quarterback — where he's ping-ponged between backup to starter the past two seasons — has made him a symbol of perseverance and resilience in Stillwater. He ignited a choo-choo Internet movement and became a bit of a folk hero, even when publicly silent for the majority of this season because of a media ban for all quarterbacks.

But that's nothing compared to Chelf's impact in Enid, his hometown of about 50,000 located about 65 miles northwest of Stillwater that has embraced one of its favorite sons and collectively felt a part of his journey.

Those folks felt the disappointment when Chelf came out of a spring 2012 quarterback derby finishing third.

And the unexpected excitement when he was thrust into emergency duty in the second half against Kansas State last November and then finished that season as the Heart of Dallas Bowl MVP.

And the anger when he was benched following just seven plays as the starter for the Cowboys' opener against Mississippi State.

And the jubilation when he was re-inserted midway through the season, nearly leading OSU to its second Big 12 title in three seasons while earning second-team All-Big 12 honors.

“I think a lot of them kind of went through it with him,” Randy said.

***

Aaron Beagle knows he'll especially need his receiver gloves on this particular day.

It's a summer workout for Enid High. But throwing at that field has also become routine for Clint Chelf during the break between the end of the spring semester and the start of OSU's summer program.

That means Clint has plenty of eager targets to sling the football to.

“It's pretty fast,” Beagle said. “You definitely need the gloves on for that. It will cut up your fingers if you don't.”

Most of those current Enid players watched from the stands as elementary or middle schoolers when Clint starred for the Plainsmen. Their coach, Steve Chard, was at Chickasha during that time and had to game plan against Clint.

Now, Chard can point to Clint as an example of the qualities he wants in his own players.

“There's a great example of a kid who's maybe better than everybody in the room,” Chard said, “who got benched and maybe wasn't sure why and stuck with it and then got to play again and played great.

“If he had a poor attitude during his time when he wasn't playing, he probably would not have gotten to play again and/or would not have played well.”

Clint occasionally speaks to the team during those summer workout days, delivering that exact message of overcoming adversity.

And during football season, there's been plenty of chatter about Clint and the Cowboys in the hallways, from students and longtime teachers and administrators.

One administrator in particular, as Tommy Parker was Clint's coach and is now an Enid High assistant principal.

He could look at Clint's situation from a coach's prism, recognizing that tough personnel decisions are made that outsiders may not understand.

Still, things were tough when Clint was on the bench.

“I have to admit, I may have struggled being a Cowboy at times,” Parker said with a chuckle. “And nothing personal toward Coach (Mike) Gundy. Those guys, they do what's best for the program. We've all been in that situation…

“You want what's best for your kid. And Clint's our kid.”

Perhaps that's most evidenced in Parker's own sons.

His 8-year-old, Tanner, pretends to be Clint when he's throwing in the backyard. His 11-year-old, TJ, became disinterested in watching Cowboy games once Clint was benched — and then, of course, jumped back on board when Clint was re-inserted. Getting a photo with Clint and the Heart of Dallas Bowl MVP trophy following that game remains a highlight for the family.

“They absolutely worship the ground he walks on,” Parker said of his sons.

Part of that admiration is because of Clint's athletic ability, sure. But he's also, simply, an easy guy to like.

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