ENID — 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.
Parker recalls Clint specifically asking high school teammates who rarely saw the field to play catch with him during warm-ups before practice. So he's not surprised Clint has remained connected to this current group of high schoolers and others in the community.
“Just to see him have success is awesome,” Parker said. “It's encouraging. It makes you feel that sometimes the good guys do finish first.”
Walk in Wade Burleson's office at Emmanuel Baptist Church, and one of the most recognizable pieces is an autographed photo of Bob Stoops hoisting the 2000 BCS Championship trophy.
He's a big-time Sooner fan preaching to a congregation of about 5,000 members. He estimates 70 percent are OSU fans.
Because of that, he's made several trips to Cowboy games with those friends over the years, where he's taken in the action as a casual observer.
Thanks to Clint Chelf, he now watches much more intently.
“I'm probably the prime example (of Clint's impact on the community),” Burleson said. “Big OU fan, get grief from all my OSU buddies and probably know more about OSU football now because of Clint.”
Burleson has known the Chelf family for several years. His oldest son, Kade, played basketball with Clint's older brother, Colton, while his youngest son, Boe, was one of Clint's receivers in high school.
Wade and Boe were inside Boone Pickens Stadium when Clint put on what Wade called the best quarterback performance he's ever seen in person. Clint completed his first 12 passes and finished 19-of-25 for 370 yards and four total touchdowns, as the Cowboys dominated then-No. 3 Baylor 49-17.
“He was throwing balls between people,” Burleson said. “It was just his night.”
Wade and Boe listened to ESPN Radio on the drive back to Enid, convinced they would hear an interview with Clint.
They didn't, as Clint at that time was still prohibited from speaking to the media.
“I came home and thought about that,” Wade said. “And the more I thought about it, the more it bugged me.”
So Wade turned to the blogosphere, writing a post calling for Clint to be permitted to talk publicly.
It got an overwhelming response, with 45 comments and even more personal messages and phone calls.
Most of them were angry.
“Gundy doesn't tell you how to preach! Don't tell him how to coach!” Wade said was the gist of the messages. “I'm like, ‘I'm not telling him how to coach. I'm saying we want to hear from a kid that we're proud of.'”
Randy Chelf points to the day that Clint finished third in the 2012 quarterback competition — one folks in Enid expected him to win — as the moment the town jumped on his son's bandwagon.
“Everybody knew that was a bad day for him,” said Randy, who also played football at OSU. “It was a bad day for everybody around here, whether you liked OSU or Tulsa or OU. A lot of people called. A lot of people stopped by.”
That has continued on a daily basis, Randy said. People have asked about Clint at the grocery store, post office and bank. When handling policies with his insurance company, Randy often spends 15 minutes talking about business and 30 or 40 talking about football.
They'd express hope Clint would get his shot in 2012. Then displeasure when Mississippi State happened. Then joy when TCU happened.
The emotions have essentially mirrored those of the Chelf family. And the fact that community members cared so much has been helpful.
“That support made a big difference,” he said. “Because it was a struggle to watch (Clint get passed over twice).”
This trip through Enid ends at the Chelf house.
Photos of Clint, Colton (a former OSU receiver) and Courtney (now a freshman basketball player at OSU) fill the walls. A wooden painting of an orange-and-black reindeer that is normally displayed in the front yard currently complements an OSU pool table in the living room. A back bedroom is home to Clint's bowl MVP trophy and other memorabilia, while his awards from the team banquet — Cowboy captain and top offensive player for 2013 — sit on the kitchen counter.
Clint will be back for Christmas soon. Local kids will likely swing by the house for photos or autographs. Clint will also make the rounds, visiting friends and coaches and teachers and mentors. He'll likely talk football with perfect strangers who stop him around town, as well.
That's Clint's way of saying thanks for the support, during the great moments and the challenging ones during his OSU career.
And Enid's way of saying thanks for bringing it along.
“When he wasn't playing, it would be easy for people to just forget about him,” Randy said. “And they never forgot about him.”