NORMAN — Landry Jones is genuinely thankful for Oklahoma football fans.
“I'm glad they care,” said Oklahoma's senior quarterback. “I'm glad that this stadium fills up every week. I'm glad they have an opinion.”
And yes, Jones means his critics, too.
“It puts you through the fire,” Jones said. “You're refined through those trials, and times you feel like you're in the wilderness. I think that's definitely helped my character. Looking back on it now, I'm thankful for even some of the bad things people said.”
Saturday, the most prolific passer in OU history will be honored along with his fellow seniors, then play his final game on Owen Field against Oklahoma State.
Two days before Senior Day is Thanksgiving Day, another occasion that seems appropriate for OU fans to express appreciation for the tough, resilient, first-class quarterback they're about to lose.
As a redshirt freshman, Jones became Oklahoma's starter after injuries prematurely ended Sam Bradford's college career.
Jones has never missed a start or left a game with an injury since taking over; in those 44 consecutive starts, he's won a Big 12 title and three bowl games, along with two Bedlam and three Red River Rivalry victories.
He's won more career games (37) and thrown for more yards (15,624) and touchdowns (117) than any OU quarterback ever.
Last week, Jones played the best game of his career, throwing for 554 yards and six touchdowns — including a remarkable final drive, when he called an audible that resulted in the game winning touchdown — in a 50-49 shootout victory at West Virginia.
The off-the-field, religious transformation he's experienced during his time in Norman, though, is what's helped him deal with the immense pressure of being Oklahoma's quarterback.
“I don't know if it would've been harder to ignore the criticism, but it would have affected me a lot more,” Jones said when asked how he might've handled the scrutiny before discovering his faith.
An element of the criticism stems from expectations set by past Stoops-era quarterbacks, but Jones said all he ever wanted to be at Oklahoma was himself.
“There are good things in different people's games you can take and look at, but at the end of the day, you are who you are and God's blessed you with a certain amount of ability in what you can do,” he said. “That's who you have to be.”
That's exactly who he is: He's not Sam Bradford. He's not Jason White.
He's Landry Jones, the quarterback who's set records, won lots of games and never once embarrassed the program or uttered a negative word about his critics.
And despite his mistakes, criticism and occasional losses, he's set the bar pretty high for those Sooner quarterbacks who follow him.