STILLWATER — Almost three decades have passed since a decision to start a true freshman quarterback at Oklahoma State divided the Cowboy locker room.
There were plenty of players on that '86 squad who were none too happy with the coaches' choice of Mike Gundy over Ronnie Williams. Some were veterans, upset that the youngster got the nod. Others were close with Williams.
Fast forward to this season, and the Cowboys are once again going to start a true freshman. What's more, Wes Lunt had been on campus about five minutes when he beat out J.W. Walsh and Clint Chelf for the job.
So, are there rifts like the ones evident back in the day?
“Zero,” offensive lineman Jonathan Rush said.
Talk to players on both sides of the ball, and you'll hear the same thing. There are no hurt feelings. There are no cliques grumbling that Walsh or Chelf should be the guy. With all the challenges that Lunt will face as an 18-year-old starting at quarterback for a big-time college football program, consider this one less hurdle to success.
A divided locker room can be a major problem.
So, why have these Cowboys remained harmonious when there could've been problems?
The reasons are all good signs for the Cowboys.
It starts with Lunt.
Since being named the starter the week after the spring game, those inside the program say he's done nothing to make anyone believe it was the wrong decision. He's shown his skills in summer workouts. He's proven his leadership in fall camp.
“Wes has gone and produced,” Rush said. “I guess it could've been a different story if he didn't come out and prove his worth.”
Of course, there's still a chance Lunt could crash and burn. I mean, he won't take a snap in a college football until Savannah State comes to town next week, so there is still so much that's unknown about Lunt.
But thus far, he's been successful.
All signs point to that continuing.
The mounting evidence that Lunt is the man for the job isn't the only reason this decision has caused no waves in the OSU locker room. You have to give credit to Walsh, Chelf and the rest of the Cowboys, too.
Walsh and Chelf were disappointed when they didn't get the starting job.
What athlete doesn't want to play?
But regardless of how angry or upset they were, neither has thrown a pity party. They didn't allow their personal feelings to pollute the team. It's a nod to their maturity.
But those quarterbacks aren't the only mature ones in the Cowboy locker room. Across the board, players say that once the quarterback decision was made, everyone accepted it and moved on.
“Whatever the choice was, that's what it's going to have to be,” wide receiver Josh Stewart said. “No worries.”
If anyone aside from Walsh and Chelf was going to be sore about Lunt being named the starter, it would likely be Stewart. He and Walsh are the closest of friends. The receiver lived with the quarterback's family for a couple years in high school, and they think of each other as brothers.
But Stewart is like the rest of the Cowboys — totally on board with Lunt as the starter.
Maybe some of it has to do with the way college football players interact these days. When practice is over, they don't scatter off to different corners of campus. They eat together at the training table. They study together at the academic center. And even when they aren't physically together, they interact together on Twitter and Facebook.
All of that cuts down on the cliques.
“I can say I'm friends with every one of the guys on my team,” wide receiver Charlie Moore said. “We're all eating together. We're all hanging out.
“It's a beautiful thing.”
Many players talk about team harmony, but often, it falls apart the first time it's tested.
Not so with the Cowboys.
That's a good sign for this team and its youthful quarterback. A divided locker room isn't a deal breaker — that '86 team won six games, but with Thurman Thomas, Barry Sanders and Hart Lee Dykes on the roster, would more have been possible? — but not having internal problems is one less issue for Lunt.
And that is one more positive for the Cowboys.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson