STILLWATER — Ask Oklahoma State fans to name the best player on this year's football team, and most think about it for a moment.
Not Thomas Rossiter.
"Brandon Weeden," the Edmond resident said over the weekend as he stood in line during Fan Appreciation Day. "I'm so excited."
The Cowboy quarterback has played only one half of meaningful football in the past eight years. Was that second-half performance against Colorado enough to earn the title of best player on the team, to beat out the likes of Kendall Hunter and Markelle Martin and Orie Lemon, to make orange-clad fans gush?
"It was," Rossiter said. "I was shocked with the speed, the velocity he puts on the ball, and then it's right where it needed to be."
Even though his play on that Thursday night has fired up Cowboy fans — and rest assured, folks are stoked about this guy; we'll have all the details next Monday in our annual fan poll — that one half of football isn't the only reason Weeden ranks as high on the intrigue scale as any athlete in our fair state of late. He is fascinating because of what he's done on the football field and off it.
Because of his time in professional baseball, Weeden has already lived another life.
It has been a Forrest Gump existence.
You remember how the movie character was always crossing paths with famous people? Weeden might not have bumped into Elvis Presley, John Kennedy or John Lennon — he's not that old — but he has encountered lots of interesting characters.
The day the New York Yankees made Weeden their first pick of the 2002 baseball draft, Weeden got a call from George Steinbrenner. Not long after, he met The Boss in person.
Weeden played rookie ball in Tampa, Fla., where Steinbrenner had a home. The heavy-handed owner would regularly stop by the stadium and pop into the clubhouse to check on his investments.
One time when he did, the Yankees were mired in a 10-game losing streak.
"Stay away from The Boss," the players whispered to each other.
Weeden laughed as he recalled the story.
"He was not a happy camper," he said. "Everybody sees The Boss, and everybody kinda scoots this way — 'I don't want him sitting by me.' He was an intimidating guy."
Still, Weeden had nothing but good things to say about Steinbrenner, who died a month ago.
"He signed my paycheck for two years," Weeden said, "so I can't complain."
The Yankees traded Weeden to the Dodgers. The deal sent Kevin Brown to New York and Weeden to Columbus, Ga. Playing for the Dodgers' minor league affiliate there, Weeden teamed with a young outfielder who would eventually win a Gold Glove and snag an R&B girlfriend.
The youngster's name was Matt Kemp.
The Dodger slugger wasn't the only future major leaguer with whom Weeden played. He estimates that he played in the minors with at least two-thirds of the players currently on the Dodgers' roster.
Thing is, his encounters with stars have continued since he left baseball.
Earlier this summer, Weeden was invited to the prestigious Manning Passing Academy. Hosted by NFL quarterbacking brothers Peyton and Eli, the camp invites about two dozen college quarterbacks to be coaches and to receive some tutoring from the Brothers Manning.
"It was awesome," Weeden said. "It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life."
That's saying something.
In addition to hanging out with Peyton and Eli, Weeden had a chance to spend time with a star-studded group of collegians. Boise State's Kellen Moore. Houston's Case Keenum. Florida State's Christian Ponder. Stanford's Andrew Luck. Alabama's Greg McElroy. Texas A&M's Jerrod Johnson. Texas Tech's Taylor Potts.
Near as anyone can tell, Weeden was the only invitee who has yet to start a college game.
Seems that Cowboy fans aren't the only ones intrigued by this guy.
Weeden has rubbed shoulders with lots of interesting characters, and that ramps up the fascination of Cowboy fans even more. But in the end, his Forrest Gump life might make Weeden an even better quarterback. Those life experiences can do nothing but help.
Crossing paths with greatness makes for more than interesting stories. It makes lasting impressions, too.