STILLWATER — After quitting football shortly before the 2010 season began, Kye Staley watched his former Oklahoma State teammates become one of the nation's most successful teams as they cruised to an 11-2 record.
Staley couldn't help but question his decision and wonder what could have been. The former Guthrie High standout has spent a more than a year recovering from a devastating knee injury during OSU's fall practices before the 2009 season.
After having doctors tell him he might not walk again, Staley battled back to return to the practice field in the spring of 2010. After a few weeks of practice last August, the Cowboy running back decided to hang up his cleats.
“I decided to give up football. I felt it wasn't for me anymore,” Staley said. “Then I ended up regretting it.”
Staley remained around the team during the 2010 season, always providing a word of encouragement for then-freshmen running backs Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith along with senior Kendall Hunter.
“It was very tough,” Staley said. “But I'm a team player, so I was always there for Joseph Randle, Kendall Hunter or Jeremy Smith. And they respected me enough (to listen) because I've been there.”
As the year progressed, Staley's hunger to be on the field returned and continued to grow throughout the season.
“I feel like I rushed into my decision to quit the first time,” Staley said. “I prayed a lot, talked to my uncle and my mother a lot, and they felt confident I could do it, and I felt confident in myself again.”
After asking coach Mike Gundy if he could return to the team, Staley has returned with renewed confidence this spring.
“I feel way more confident than I did at the beginning,” Staley said. “When I first started coming back, I was so worried about my knee and I was running kind of hesitant.
“Now it's like there was no knee injury, I'm free to do what I've been able to do.”
And his renewed confidence in his health and ability has been noticed.
“I'm really encouraged by what he's done,” Gundy said. “I hope he can continue to stay healthy.”
Staley has been so impressive this spring that he could be carving himself a role as the third running back in the Cowboys offense this fall.
“His attitude has been tremendous, and he's been productive through six practices,” Gundy said. “We all have a strong belief in him, but I don't know that anyone really thought he could do it... but so far he is.”
Replacing Kendall Hunter Replacing Kendall Hunter won't be an easy task for Oklahoma State. Here is a look at the running backs battling to replace Hunter this spring: Joseph Randle, 6-1, 191, Soph., Wichita, Kan. Dynamic and versatile, Randle will be a big part of OSU's offense in 2011. Jeremy Smith, 5-10, 202, Soph., Tulsa Union) Very quick with excellent feet and toughness. Smith excels in short yardage but is a very solid overall running back. Kye Staley, 5-10, 213, Jr., Guthrie (FB) After a year on the sideline, Staley has returned to the team and could make an impact. David Paulsen, 6-3, 250, Jr., Marietta, Ga. (FB) Faces a tough task replacing two-time All-Big 12 fullback Bryant Ward but Paulsen is a solid prospect. *Joe Aska, 5-10, 199, RFr., Edmond North With coaches looking to keep Smith and Randle healthy, Aska should get the opportunity to make a mark this spring. *Grant Goodwin, 5-8, 204, So., Jenks In the same situation as Aska, Goodwin will get the chance to impress this spring. Note: True freshmen Herschel Sims and Desmond Roland will enter the competition this summer and could earn time in OSU's offensive backfield. * Denotes a walk-on