LAWRENCE, Kan. — Ryan Broyles held tight to the football.
Ball security has never been a problem for the Oklahoma receiver, but this was a catch like no other and required a vice grip like never before.
It was the catch that broke the NCAA record for career receptions, the moment that put Broyles at the top of the record books. And it came in the most fitting of ways — a big-time touchdown in a closer-than-expected game against Kansas.
In what would become a 47-17 rout, Broyles' 57-yard touchdown catch essentially broke open the game.
“Ryan Broyles was just out of this world,” Sooner coach Bob Stoops said. “When you set a national record, that's pretty special.
“When you do it like he did with over 200 yards ... ”
Broyles, you see, was hardly done after he broke the national record, a mark of 316 catches previously held by Purdue's Taylor Stubblefield. Broyles broke the record and kept right on going.
Broyles finished with 13 catches for 217 yards and two touchdowns. It was another big night in a big career for one of the best receivers that the college game has ever seen.
"Just coming coming out of high school, a lot of guys didn't think I would be able to do it," Broyles said of playing big-time Division-I football. "Too slow. Too short. It just shows how hard work pays off.
"I feel like I've always been an underdog."
Now, he's one of the greatest receivers in college football history.
How do you not put him among the greats?
Sure, he's not a prototypical pro receiver with a big body and blazing speed, but this night reminds us that it's not about what Broyles isn't but rather about what he is -- an amazing player.
He catches everything thrown his way. He makes tough plays in traffic. He delivers clutch plays for his team.
There are so many legacies that Broyles will leave, but it's hard not to think about the how high he could set the bar.
He entered the game Saturday with 313 career receptions. He left Lawrence with 326 and counting. The Sooners have six regular-season games and one bowl game remaining. Broyles has a career average of 7.2 catches a game, so if he manages that during these next seven games, he'll add another 49 catches to his career tally and finish his days in Soonerville with 375 catches.
Consider that the old NCAA record was 316 catches, and that tells you how far ahead of the pack Broyles might be.
After all these decades of college football, the most passes that any receiver caught was 316.
That was B.B. -- Before Broyles.
What if Broyles finishes his career with 375 catches?
What if he averages more like 9 or 10 catches over these remaining games? That's not out of the question. Put up those kind of numbers, and he could approach 400 career catches.
It's an inconceivable number that Broyles now has in his sights.
"You never know how many touchdowns and how many receiving yards he could get," Sooner quarterback Landry Jones said. "I think it's just special to have someone like that on your team, one of the better guys on our team."
But nothing was more special and more iconic that than record-breaker. Jones hit Broyles in stride, and already with a step or two on the defender, Broyles hit the accelerator and scored easily.
"He really put an exclamation point on it tonight," Sooner receivers coach Jay Norvell said. "The play for the record, he just ran right past that guy, and that's something that Ryan would like to do more of. He's inside so much that we wanted to get him outside and get him a big play on that last one, and he really came through on it."
Broyles held the ball aloft, looking skyward.
He celebrated with teammates in the end zone, then headed to the sideline. Every step along the way came with another pat on the back or hug or handshake.
That's when the enormity of the moment started to dawn on Broyles. He thought of his teammates and coaches. He thought of his family and friends. He thought of all the people who mean so much to him, and the emotions nearly overwhelmed him.
All the while, Broyles held onto the ball.
"I'm keeping that one, for sure," he said. "I think they're going to send it to the hall of fame, the college hall of fame for a couple months, then it'll be back home with my mom."
He wasn't about to let go.