NORMAN — More than a month has passed since Corey Nelson's season-ending pectoral tear, and the Oklahoma senior linebacker still hasn't quite figured out how to cope on a day-to-day basis.
Sure, the team captain still hangs around at practice, in meetings and during film sessions. He's there to lend a helping hand to young players tasked with replacing him on the Sooner defense. But things are undoubtedly different, and while he adapts, Nelson relies mostly on a higher power.
“I just remind myself every day that God has me,” Nelson said. “I know when I'm weak, that's when he's strong.”
Nelson applied for a medical redshirt that would allow him to return for a fifth season in 2014 — he expects to hear back in late November or early December — but the strong possibility exists that he'll never play another game on Owen Field. That's why Saturday, when the Sooners host Iowa State on Senior Day, Nelson will be dressed in full pads.
“I just thought this may be the last time I can wear that jersey, and those shoulder pads and those cleats,” Nelson said. “I wanted to wear the equipment and look like the football player that I was.
“I want to look like all the other seniors.”
Nelson was enjoying the best season of his career before the injury, which occurred in the third quarter of Oklahoma's Oct. 5 home win over TCU. He'd recorded 27 tackles and a sack to that point, and had even returned an interception for a touchdown in the Sooners' victory at Notre Dame.
But more than that, Nelson finally felt comfortable in his role on the Oklahoma defense after a season of uncertainty.
Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops experimented with schemes designed to stop high-powered, spread offenses late in the 2012 season, but those sets often included just one — and, many times, zero — linebackers.
Middle linebacker Tom Wort left Oklahoma with a year of eligibility remaining, largely because of frustration stemming from those experiments.
Nelson has admitted that he considered following Wort out the door, but was reassured by OU coaches that he'd return to playing a prominent role in the defense as a senior.
Now, the once-frustrated player who thought about skipping his fourth year at Oklahoma is praying the NCAA grants him a fifth.
But even if Nelson never plays another down on Owen Field, at least he's going out in full pads.
“I feel like I have a strong case,” Nelson said. “If it's in God's will, it'll happen. If I don't get it, then it's still in God's will and I'll have to move on.”