NORMAN — Brad Camp pulled open the door of one light brown cabinet, then another and another and another.
Tucked neatly inside were stacked, white facemasks. They were at least 11 cabinets, maybe more, that contained row after row of masks. Some were made of carbon or tubular steel. The most expensive masks were made of titanium.
The craze of facemasks around college football has Camp, Oklahoma's director of athletics equipment, extremely busy.
He isn't sure on the exact total of face masks within his equipment room, but with seven helmet styles, and anywhere from seven to 14 masks that fit per helmet … well, he just shrugged his shoulders and smiled.
Then the Justin Tuck craze hit. The New York Giants defensive end created his own face mask that he wore while playing in the Super Bowl. The mask is comprised of six cross bars. The bars were made to leave little open space to prevent an opponent from slipping their fingers through the bars, grabbing Tuck's mask and pulling on it to hurt his neck.
Luckily for guys such as Oklahoma's Jamarkus McFarland and R.J. Washington, Camp was able to order the mask in time for spring practice. OU is one of the first college programs in the country to get the new style of mask, which is known to equipment managers as the CU-S3BD-HT-SP.
Camp sat on the countertop of the equipment room as he picked up one facemask then another.
Dom Whaley wears one like Adrian Peterson. McFarland wants the Justin Tusk mask. Tony Jefferson likes to switch up his style.
So how often are the players actually asking for a new look with their facemask?
“More often than I would like,” Camp said with a laugh. “Most of them, once they kind of find their style, they stick with it because that's their look. … but you might get a guy, he's one of the first two or three guys that gets a mask on and all of a sudden you get a whole position, like all the defensive backs decide, ‘OK, we want this look now.'”
McFarland is one of the defensive linemen who made the switch to Tuck's style of mask.
“It looks aggressive,” McFarland said. “We wanted to have a little swagger.”
The offensive line doesn't really go for a look as a unit. Sophomore Adam Shead said he thinks his facemask makes him look intimidating.
“Behind it, you can't see my eyes and you have one of these grill-lookin'-type things,” Shead said. “It looks kind of like a monster.”
Punter Tress Way wears a quarterback's style helmet and mask. He said if he could, he'd return to the single-bar facemask, but those aren't legal anymore.
“You've got to turn your swag up in your own way,” Way said.
The style of the helmet isn't the only reason Camp's equipment room is packed with cabinets full of facemasks. The Sooners practice with a heavier mask, which mainly carbon steel. On game day, they play with a titanium mask.
“From a weight standpoint, in the fourth quarter, the defensive lineman, offensive lineman is down there and it's easier to get your head up if you got a half pound or a pound less of weight on your neck,” Camp said.
The titanium is also only used on game day because it's about five to six times more expensive than carbon steel. While Camp has never seen a facemask actually break, he has seen them bend. In a year, they'll replace about 20 to 25 bent facemasks — normally the ones on the player's practice helmets since those are being used four days a week compared to the use of a game helmet.
Since the Giants' Super Bowl victory, Tuck designed a new mask that is exclusively to him, and for right now, that's OK with Camp and the Sooners.
“One of these guys decides, ‘Well I'm going to be different again, so now I'm going to change and go do something else again,'” Camp said about his cabinets full of facemasks. “It is what it is.”