NORMAN — On those early morning bus rides to Fresno City College, Josiah St. John wasn’t thinking about playing in front of more than 80,000 people.
He wasn’t thinking about living in a brand-new housing like Oklahoma’s Headington Hall.
St. John wasn’t thinking about the possibility the NCAA could alter the rules by the time he reached his final college destination to allow for unlimited food and snacks for the players.
St. John just wanted to play football — American football, he still calls it.
“I just had a burning desire to play American football,” the Toronto-area native said. “I begged my parents.”
After a journey that took him from Toronto to Fresno to Texas and now to Norman, Josiah St. John is thrilled to be the first Canadian to play football for the Sooners.
St. John’s parents, Lovelace and Esther St. John, took some convincing before they let him head to California.
“We were nervous to some extent,” Lovelace said. “We wanted to make sure this would work.
“But we saw the passion he had for it. We saw the work ethic he had.”
That passion was on full display during those early morning bus rides.
St. John lived about 30 minutes from the school. Without a car, he had to catch the bus often before the sun came up to get to the college early enough for workouts and then class.
Without a scholarship, St. John had to scrape by. He often went without food. Before heading to the school, he had never been to California and had no family there.
“It was just a struggle,” Josiah said. “Looking back at it now, it probably made me stronger. Everything’s easier now being here. I don’t regret going to California. I loved it when I was there.”
St. John, a 6-foot-6, 300-pounder, opened eyes at Fresno. Arkansas called.
“Prior to that, my main goal was just to play somewhere,” St. John said. “I wasn’t really thinking big-time D-I or D-II. I just wanted to get a scholarship. I just wanted to play football somewhere and when they called me, ‘Am I really that good?’”
Bruce Kittle, then coaching OU’s offensive tackles and tight ends, paid a visit.
That gave St. John the answer to his question.
From Fresno, St. John headed to Athens, Texas, where he eventually landed at Trinity Valley Community College.
At Trinity, he was on scholarship for the first time.
“Now I didn’t have to worry about paying for books and stuff like that,” St. John said. “That was a big, big relief.”
After the 2012 season, he signed with Kittle and the Sooners.
Shortly after he signed, Kittle and James Patton, the two coaches who recruited him to Oklahoma, left.
St. John already knew new offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh, who had tried recruiting him to West Virginia.
“He’s hard on me because he wants me to be better,” St. John said of Bedenbaugh. “But that’s what I needed really.”
After redshirting last season, St. John is in the rotation at tackle, hoping to find reps behind starters Tyrus Thompson and Daryl Williams.
“I’m starting to learn how to not rely on pure athleticism like I did in the past,” St. John said. “If anything happens to either Tyrus or Daryl, God forbid, I want to be the next tackle out there ready to go, or even I can spell them a couple series in a game.”
Regardless of his role this season, though, St. John has come a long way.
“Everything’s easier now being here,” St. John said. “It was a struggle but it’s paid off in the end.”