A swarm of reporters surrounded J.W. Walsh during Oklahoma State's Cotton Bowl Media Day at AT&T Stadium Monday.
Walsh played his high school ball at nearby Denton Guyer, so the local interest certainly made sense. But it also marked the first time Walsh spoke publicly since Clint Chelf replaced him as starting quarterback in mid-October. Cowboy coach Mike Gundy put a media ban on all quarterbacks for much of the regular season.
How has Walsh handled the last couple months?
“Anytime you win games, there's no reason to be negative or be upset about anything,” Walsh said. “That's why it's the greatest sport on earth, because it's a team game and it's a team sport. For us to have success like we've been having, that's been the biggest key.”
Walsh said he doesn't remember much about the moment he was pulled after throwing two first-half interceptions against TCU — “it was a few months ago,” he said. But Chelf and Walsh are genuine friends, and both have said that's made it easier for them to support each other during another season with major quarterback changes.
Meanwhile, Walsh said he's continued to work on his game, focusing on his footwork, making the correct reads, understanding the playbook and becoming a more consistent passer.
Because after this season, Walsh will enter yet another quarterback derby with incoming freshman Mason Rudolph, junior Daxx Garman and redshirt freshmen Richard Lagow and Jake Hubenak.
And Walsh will still be ready if needed in the Cotton Bowl.
“The best part about it is we've been through it as much as possible so far,” Walsh said. “Everybody on the team's used to it and everybody on the team kind of knows how to adjust to it now.
“At this point, we're all just kind of prepared for whatever. As long as whoever's on the field is always prepared like they're the starter and prepared to play, then I think we'll have success as a football team.”
AS OSU ASSISTANTS, GUNDY AND HENSON DISCUSSED SPREAD OFFENSE
Gundy and Josh Henson will be on opposite sidelines Friday night, but for years, they were allies in the offensive room at OSU.
During the Les Miles era in Stillwater, Gundy was the offensive coordinator and Henson was the tight ends coach, and they had very similar ideas about offense.
Not that everyone agreed, though.
"We had a lot of discussions of what he and I thought would be productive some day in college football that would go on deaf ears with Les because it didn't involve two tight ends and a fullback," Gundy said, chuckling. "We joke about that now.
"I say that very respectfully; I think everybody knows how I feel about Coach Miles. I think he's a terrific coach, very intelligent offensive mind."
But Miles' idea of offense was more power.
Gundy and Henson's idea? Spread 'em out and go deep.
"We felt like we had pretty good personnel with three or four wide receivers," Henson said, referring to a group that included Rashaun Woods. "But you have to be who you are in this job. I know that sounds so cliché, but that's not who Les Miles was."
OSU cornerback Justin Gilbert knows firsthand how fast Missouri running back Henry Josey is — the two sprinted against each other once in high school.
Gilbert was at Huntsville High, Josey at Angleton High, and they met in the 100 meters at a Texas state regional as seniors.
Gilbert's time: 10.50 seconds.
"It was a neck-and-neck race," Gilbert recalled Tuesday. "I started a little bit in front of him, and I didn't gain anything on him and he didn't gain anything on me."
Gilbert expected to face Josey again at state.
"But I got a false start and didn't get to race," Gilbert said.
Even though Josey didn't win the 100 that year, he enjoyed plenty of relay success at Angleton. He was part of 400- and 800-meter relay teams that included eventual Texas Longhorns D.J. Monroe and Quandre Diggs.
The Cotton Bowl is known for giving participating teams the royal treatment while they are in town, and apparently, this year is no different.
The Cowboys have a hospitality room set up in one of their hotel's ballrooms that is to die for.
"It's ridiculous," defensive tackle Calvin Barnett raved. "On one side, there's a basketball goal with room to shoot and play. Then, right across from that there's a huge flat screen with, like, five huge, king-sized recliners. There's little remote control cars, remote control helicopters, foosball tables, pool tables. There's three or four TVs with the new Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
"Then right in the center of it is this big thing for food."
Everything a college football player could want.
"We could eat and sleep in this room and be just fine," Barnett said.