Aaron Colvin began contributing to the Sooner defense as a true freshman, when he appeared in all 14 games on special teams and as a reserve cornerback.
His versatility meant a variety of action in 2011, when the sophomore started at strong safety but still saw occasional action at cornerback and led Oklahoma with 84 tackles.
Colvin moved back to corner full-time before his junior year and flourished in the role. He recorded four interceptions, 11 pass breakups and two sacks.
But he'd also missed the proceeding spring while recovering from a shoulder injury. That missed time is why defensive coordinator Mike Stoops thought it was so important for Colvin to play another college season.
“I was worried,” Stoops said of the days between the Cotton Bowl and Colvin's announcement that he'd return. “I was worried for him, too because I knew he would be such a better player a year from now.
“Certainly you don't know how things play out. I just feel the kid physically and mentally will be so much stronger in a year. First impressions are important when you go to the NFL. I think he'll make a better first impression now.”
Colvin spent the spring and summer bulking up, plus improving his leadership skills on an Oklahoma defense — and, more specifically, a secondary — ripe with inexperience.
Another season at cornerback in the pass-happy Big 12 will only benefit Colvin, Stoops said, adding that he believes the senior is capable of being a “dominating” player with high first-round potential in next year's draft.
“He's in a matchup just about every snap,” Stoops said. “I think he gains confidence every time he wins, and I don't think he worries about when he loses. He's winning a helluva lot more than he's losing.”
Colvin also watched last April as Jefferson wasn't drafted; the former Sooner and undrafted free agent now faces a tough, uphill battle to even secure a roster spot with the Arizona Cardinals.
“The guys who have come back have really jumped here,” Stoops said. “And some guys who came out early, it hasn't worked out very well. I think he made a great decision.”
Colvin's on-field collegiate goals — winning the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back; becoming an All-American; competing for a national championship — remain intact because he resisted the tempting leap at NFL riches.
But the degree remains paramount to his parents.
“We've said to him since he was in first grade — and to all of our three children — if you start something, then you need to finish it,” Bryant Colvin said. “I think there's a life lesson in finishing something that you started. He may not even use this degree. It has nothing to do with the diploma; it's about accomplishing something that you started.”