NORMAN — Eric Striker isn’t interested in talking about the tough decision he might have to make in about five months.
This summer, a Sports Illustrated 2015 NFL mock draft pegged the dynamic OU linebacker as a first-round selection, should he choose to leave Norman following his junior season.
Regardless of what he decides, though, one thing is a virtual certainty: Eric Striker will graduate. Education is too important to the single mother of three who raised Striker — and is currently putting herself through law school while working full time at age 43 — for him to leave school and never finish it.
“My whole family presses education,” Striker said. “That’s really important. You need to have a career, and you’d rather be safe than sorry.”
Lia Skelton is on a break from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School near Tampa, Fla., until early September, so she’s already made arrangements to travel to Norman for Saturday’s season opener against Louisiana Tech.
She also wants to make it to the Sooners’ Sept. 13 home game against Tennessee and the annual Red River Rivalry game in Dallas on Oct. 11, but working full time and being a part-time law student means making certain sacrifices.
Waiting this long to begin law school was a sacrifice in itself. Skelton graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 1998, but with three small children, law school wasn’t possible then.
“It’s always been a dream of mine, but after getting my undergrad with kids, I decided to wait,” Skelton said.
Eric — or “E.J.” as his mother calls him — was her youngest son, so when he left to play college football at Oklahoma in the summer of 2012, Skelton started applying to law schools, and began classes a few months later.
Striker said he’s never considered himself a “mama’s boy,” but describes their relationship as a very special one. He chose Oklahoma as the college football program of his dreams when he was just a freshman at Armwood High in Seffner, Fla., and said he’s never regretted moving away for this chapter of his life.
Still, the tough, fierce linebacker who wreaked havoc on Alabama’s offense in the Sugar Bowl gets a tad choked up when talking about his mother’s relentless pursuit of her goals.
“It’s wonderful,” he said. “You don’t let dreams go.”
Skelton said she beams with pride anytime she reads an article about her youngest son’s football accomplishments. She’s thrilled for the upcoming season because of what it might hold for him, but admits being a little nervous because of the sky-high expectations.
Striker, though, knows he’ll be just fine — both on the field and off it — because of everything he’s learned and continues to learn from his mom.
“I’m the person I am because of her,” Striker said. “I get my kindness from her. My humbleness from her. My relentlessness from her.
“I always try to project that image of how she raised me.”