Thompson said his exemplary record to that point kept him from too much hot water.
His team punishment was internal (extra conditioning drills), and Thompson eventually worked his way back into Stoops’ good graces.
“He’s pretty fair when it comes to treating players equally, when it comes to dishing out punishment,” Thompson said. “He let everybody know, we have something we have to live up to and hold as far as representing the university.”
Thompson got wiser. Maybe the Mixon case can at least serve as warning to other athletes. The risk far outweighs the rewards.
Smith said he saw plenty of 3 a.m.’s his first year or two on campus. But eventually, the allure was gone.
“For most (older) guys, they’re getting their degree, thinking about their future, ‘where I’m going to work, how I’m going to make a living,’” Smith said. “Becoming a man. You get interested in other things. Not wanting to go to the frat houses, not wanting to stay out to closing time on Campus Corner.”
But the younger guys are excited at the lack of restraints.
“You get a little bit of freedom, you want to fit in, you want to hang with the crowd, whatever,” Thompson said. “You can get yourself in trouble. Especially if alcohol is involved, incidents are going to take place.”
Smith said one problem is that older players, who have learned a thing or two, and younger players, who haven’t, don’t much mix socially. “I wasn’t real close to any of the young guys in my meeting room,” Smith said. “A lot of the older guys aren’t going the same places the younger guys are.”
It’s a combustible recipe. And coaches have to weigh a variety of factors in trying to mentor, and discipline, the players in their charge.
“I feel bad for coaches, because they are responsible for 105 student-athletes,” Thompson said. “They get a lot of the blame when they get in trouble. But what are your kids doing right now? Most people don’t know what their own two, three kids are doing.”
And so Joe Mixon’s football career, and maybe the course of his life, hangs in the balance after a too-late night on Campus Corner.
“You gotta be smarter than that,” Smith said. “I don’t know what he was doing, I wasn’t there. But Mom always said, ‘Nothing good happens after midnight.’
“The common sense reaction is get your (butt home). What are you doing? I think a normal response of guys like you and like me and any normal person is, what are you doing? You’re being an idiot. You’re blowing it. You’ve got the world on a silver platter and you’re trying to give it away.”
And that comes from a guy who admits he didn’t always get his butt home when he was 19. At best, and there is a lot of room for worse, Joe Mixon was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.
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Ron Rivers, a former NFL player and Joe Mixon’s coach at Freedom High School in Oakley, Calif., was surprised by the allegations made against Mixon.