NORMAN — Eleven years after they first met in Norman, the quarterback and his favorite receiver still share a special bond.
It started in the weight room and on the practice field, eventually making its way to a national audience.
Now, seven years after their last game together, Jason White and Mark Clayton are together again, back where they started, helping out with Adrian Peterson's youth football camp.
And it gave them a great chance to reflect on their college years.
“We were truly boys and we are really family,” Clayton said of his relationship with White. “We went through a lot of stuff together and have shared some great memories. It is great to reconnect and talk about what is going on in each other's lives.”
And even though those lifestyles are different — Clayton is entering his seventh season in the NFL, barring a lockout, and White is continuing his business ventures in and around Norman — the connection they shared in the early 2000's can never be taken away.
It isn't as much about the stats, although Clayton's 3,241 receiving yards and White's 81 career touchdowns are quite impressive. It is more about the times they spent around each other.
“We did a lot of extra workouts together,” White said. “I would call him around 9 at night and say, ‘Mark, let's go to the gym and throw some,' and he would always be there. Those were the times I won't forget.”
But, Sooner fans will remember the on-field success a little more. Between 2001 and 2004, OU recorded one of the best four-year stretches in school history.
The Sooners won 47 games, compared to just seven losses. And the two leading catalysts were White and Clayton.
In 2003 alone, Jason White threw for 3,846 yards and 40 touchdowns en route to winning the Heisman Trophy. And Clayton was the beneficiary, catching 83 balls for 1,425 yards and 15 touchdowns.
With so many connections, it would be hard for the tandem to pick a favorite touchdown. But they tried anyway.
“We were playing Texas and I threw a little out-route,” White said. “Mark catches, breaks about 10 tackles and turns it into a 70-yard touchdown. Easy throw for me and look at the stats I get. But that is the kind of stuff he did.”
Clayton clearly remembered that play, but had another favorite on his mind.
“It was a slant route against A&M and I was covered well,” Clayton said. “He just threw it and trusted me; he might have even had his eyes closed, but it turned into a touchdown.
“We had a lot of plays like that, where it wasn't like we practiced them, we just made it work.”
It is the same type of plays Sooner fans witnessed last season, as a new combination is making an imprint in the record books — current OU stars Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles.
Jones put up 4,718 passing yards, just two shy of Sam Bradford's school record, to go along with 38 touchdowns. With the school's career record in both categories well within striking distance this season, some people are thinking Heisman.
“I think Landry has the tools to (get a Heisman),” White said. “He has the team to do it, so it is just a matter of everything falling into place.”
As far as Broyles goes, his breakout 2010 season already puts him at the top of OU's career list in receptions, yards and touchdowns. The person he eclipsed on all three? Clayton.
“I talk to Ryan on (a regular basis),” Clayton said. “He is a lot stronger than me when I played there and I like what they are doing. It's a special connection.”
And one that Clayton is familiar with.