Pull up to the Heritage Hall football practice field near the south end of campus on a weekday afternoon.
There, during one-on-one drills, an intense competition is brewing between two of Oklahoma's top college football prospects — Barry J. Sanders and Sterling Shepard.
“We're always pushing each other,” Shepard said.
“Sometimes he'll get me; sometimes I'll get him. It's just competition.”
Sanders, a running back and cornerback, and Shepard, a receiver and safety, always choose each other to match up with in these types of drills.
But it isn't just them that benefits from the intense competition.
“When you have those two guys competing against each other, everyone gets better,” Chargers coach Andy Bogert said.
“They're always out front, challenging each other every day. They're funny about getting after each other.”
The competitions bring out their differences — both physical and personality-wise.
“I wish I had his quickness,” Sanders said. “I can't guard him off the ball.”
And, as is natural in football, sometimes competition can get overheated. But Sanders and Shepard's close off-the-field friendship allows them to get after each other without anyone taking anything personally.
“We can get onto each other and not take it personal,” Sanders said. “We understand that we just want what is in the best interest of the team. We make sure each other are doing the best we can.”
Shepard said: “On the football field, you have a lot of moments where situations get a little heated, and we definitely have come across moments where we both get heated. We know that we're great friends both on and off the field, so we're not gonna get mad at each other from something that is a heated situation.”
So, other than intense competition, what may cause these heated situations?
“He plays a lot,” Sanders said, with a laugh. “He likes to have fun. And there's a time and place for everything, and sometimes his timing is a little off.”
Shepard is the more vocal of the two, and it shows in their leadership styles.
“I like to lead by example; I'm not into the whoo-hollering stuff like this dude,” Sanders said.
Shepard said: “I usually speak what I want to get across.”
For all their differences, their most glaring similarity is the attention they get from college recruiters. Sanders and Shepard are two of the most highly ranked recruits in the Oklahoma class of 2012.
Sanders has rushed for 3,617 yards and 50 touchdowns in his career, and Shepard broke out last season with 1,015 yards receiving and 18 touchdowns.
Shepard committed to Oklahoma in March, while Sanders, who is considering Alabama, Florida State, Oklahoma State and Stanford, remains undecided.
“I'm envying his situation right now, already being committed and being done with it,” Sanders said.
“I'll probably take him on some of my officials. Him and some other guys. And maybe I'll go with him on a few.”
Wherever Sanders winds playing in college, this will likely be the final season the duo lines up on the same side of a football game.
It has been a friendship born of football and circumstance. Sanders was already at Heritage Hall when Shepard enrolled at the school as a freshman, and they became fast friends.
“Ever since we met each other, it's all been about the football thing,” Shepard said. “When I first came to Heritage Hall, he was just a real good guy.
“On the field, we obviously are a real good match. Off the field, he's one of my best friends. I'm with him pretty much all the time.”
Duo they most resemble: John Lennon and Paul McCartney Running back Barry J. Sanders and receiver Sterling Shepard each bring different talents and make their own contributions to Heritage Hall, but the Chargers wouldn't be the same without either of them. The same could be said for a dynamic music duo in the 1960s — John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the two main songwriters and vocalists of The Beatles. After The Beatles broke up, Lennon and McCartney had wildly successful careers apart from one another. When Shepard, who has committed to Oklahoma, and Sanders, who remains uncommitted but has ruled out the Sooners, move on to their separate college careers, expect similar results.