NORMAN — Jason White bolted down the stairway that leads from the OU football offices to the locker room. He took the steps three, four at a time.
Eliza Doolittle had nothing on White. He could have danced all day.
By the time White opened the door, at the bottom of the stairwell, he had composed himself. Back to playing it cool, even if White was joyous at being named the Sooner starting quarterback.
Quite a change from the previous August. A year and two days earlier, Aug. 16, 2001, White had received the opposite news. Nate Hybl, not White, would start.
Instead of dancing, White was despondent. Disappointed at the decision. Even wondering if he belonged at the school at which he would eventually win the Heisman Trophy.
Similar emotions will flood Blake Bell and Trevor Knight, perhaps this week, as Bob Stoops declares a winner in his first quarterback derby in six years.
Most of us think Bell will win the job, but Stoops plays a mean game of poker. He's offered no clues, even though it's been awhile.
The Sooners have been set at QB since August 2007, when Sam Bradford won a preseason camp competition and soon proved coaches right. When Bradford was injured in September 2009, redshirt freshman Landry Jones took over, so there has been little quarterback intrigue until now.
But time was, this was standard procedure in Soonerville. Five times in seven seasons, OU left spring practice without a declared starting quarterback.
In August 2005, Paul Thompson was summoned to offensive coordinator Chuck Long's office, same as White was in 2002.
As he arrived, Thompson saw Rhett Bomar walking out of the Switzer Center, obviously having come from Long's office, but Thompson couldn't gauge the news based on Bomar's expression.
“It can be a little bit awkward, without a doubt,” Thompson said of the competition.
Thompson won that day, but he lost the job after one game and Bomar quarterbacked the rest of the season.
Stoops likes to paint a picture of kumbaya, even after a winner is declared, but the truth is the opposite. Competition is stiff, emotions are raw and feelings are stung.
“When you're competitive, in practice, you don't mind them fumbling a snap or throwing an interception,” Thompson said of quarterback combatants.
However, such competition sharpens a quarterback. White went through three derbies yet won a Heisman Trophy after the third. Bradford won the Heisman 16 months after battling neck and neck with Joey Halzle and Keith Nichol.
“What stood out for me, every practice was like a game,” White said. “Every day, sometimes twice a day, you had to go out and give it your best.
“Every move was scrutinized, every throw was graded. Every practice you mentally prepared yourself like it was a game.
“It definitely made us better players. It's a different feeling when you're the starting quarterback.”
Thompson said he tried every little thing possible to gain an advantage. Lead 7-on-7 drills. Extra film study. “Not sabotage the other guy, but you want to put your best foot forward,” Thompson said.
Friendships aren't necessarily strained in quarterback competitions — Hybl and White stayed on decent terms — but they don't necessarily blossom, either.
“Each quarterback has his group of friends,” Thompson said. “Bomar was a little younger than me. It was more of a business relationship.
“Everybody understands, ultimately you want to have the best guy out there on the field.”
The awkwardness doesn't end after the competition is settled.
“What do you say?” Thompson said. “Do you say anything?”
Does the relationship in practice change? Is the declared starter suddenly supposed to act differently toward the now-second teamer?
Awkward. There's no other word for it.
“Anybody who says different is lying,” Thompson said.
Stoops says he won't have a team meeting after picking a quarterback. The players can figure it out for themselves.
That's the way White remembers it happening, but Thompson recalls a team meeting in 2005 in which he was announced as the starter. Another awkward moment. Maybe as good a reason as any not to do it.
The players will find out soon enough. And if they want to be the first to know, check the stairwell.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.