NORMAN — Demontre Hurst thinks Aaron Colvin — his cornerback comrade last year at Oklahoma — made the right choice by returning to Norman for one more season.
“He had an awesome year,” Hurst said. “By him going back, he's gonna be the primary leader back there with all the young guys. He can really raise his bar as a defender.
“A lot of teams probably respect him now. I think it was a smart decision for him to stay.”
Colvin, a first-team All-Big 12 selection last season, considered forgoing his senior season and entering April's NFL Draft. He finished his junior season with 52 tackles, two sacks, four interceptions and four pass break-ups.
Hurst played in all 53 games of his college football career, starting each of the 40 from the beginning of his sophomore year through the Sooners' Jan. 4 loss to Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.
The Lancaster, Texas, native ended his Oklahoma career with 178 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions and 33 pass break-ups.
Hurst played in the Jan. 19 East-West Shrine game; the former Sooner was on the winning West team, led by former Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Leeman Bennett.
The former Sooner spoke Tuesday with The Oklahoman by telephone from Naples, Fla., where he's working toward his NFL dream.
How have the last few months been for you?
“I've been doing good. I've been out here in Florida living the life with this nice weather. I played in the East-West Shrine game and had a real great experience there. Met a lot of great people. Getting the NFL experience with all these coaches. Now I'm out here in Naples, Fla., training with guys from all over the place. It's been a good journey so far.”
What was the Shrine game experience like?
“Practice was the most important thing. In practice, I really went out and competed and tried to do all the things the coaches were teaching, just to let them know I'm coachable. I went out there and did the best I could. I made some great plays and had a lot of great opportunities. It was just a fun experience for me.”
Have you been given any idea of where you might be drafted?
“They haven't given me anything. I just try to put that on the backside and focus on things I can control. Anything can change from here until draft day.”
Any team you'd prefer to play for?
“I'm a big Dallas Cowboys fan. Me going back home, that'd be a lovely thing. That's my number one team. But to be honest, I'll go anywhere just to get an opportunity to play in the NFL.”
What do you think will stand out when you reflect on your time at Oklahoma?
“Me just growing up. Coming in as a young guy, getting an opportunity to play as a freshman. I've grown up so much and matured from my first year to my last year. I grew up pretty quick. It made me grow up pretty quickly and be a leader, sometimes to guys who were older than me.”
The OU defense played well at times in the last couple years, but also struggled quite a bit. Do you think things improved from your junior to your senior seasons?
“We had a lot of success. You really can't judge the success from last year to this year. It's a different year, different teams, different schemes. Overall, it was just a different team entirely. Coach Mike came in with a great system and we were all new to it. The year that just passed, it wasn't all that bad, but it wasn't all that good either. It's a learning process. In his second year there, a lot of guys will continue picking up on what he likes to do. A coaching change can happen any time.”
Were you surprised by some of the different, unique schemes Mike Stoops brought, like playing sometimes with no linebackers?
“I don't know if I'd say it was a surprise ... We didn't really expect it. I guess it's somewhere in the middle. Being a secondary guy — and coach Mike being a secondary guy and the defensive coordinator — he's gonna rely on his DBs to line up with five wide receivers to go out there and shut those guys down. We knew the scheme we had the whole season. We just really tried to trust in coach Mike and his game plan for what he had for us.”
Do you think that system will work better once guys have some more experience in it?
“Oh yeah. Once you get more game experience and more chances to adapt and try to learn, it helps you a lot. A lot of the young guys last year will know what to expect this year. I'm pretty sure coach Mike's gonna be getting on those guys.”
What was the biggest difference between Brent Venables and Mike Stoops?
“They came in with different schemes. The coaching styles are the same. There were a lot of differences. We just tried to adapt and do our best with it. I really don't wanna say which one I liked better, but I respect both of them.”
You played a lot as a freshman, and it looks like OU will rely on a lot of young guys in the secondary next season. What advice do you give young guys who get thrust into early playing time?
“I've been in their situation. I had a lot of guys to look up to as I was playing. You just tell them to stay focused, keep their head on straight. Stay coachable. Do the right things on and off the field, and just believe in yourself. You have the ability because you're at the University of Oklahoma. You just have to trust yourself and really get down into the game plan. Watch a lot of film, and trust the coaches. Coaches aren't ever gonna put us in a bad position.”
Do you think Aaron Colvin will improve his leadership skills by being the only veteran in the secondary next season?
“He knows he's gonna have a lot of young guys in the backfield with him. If he wants those guys to get going, he's gonna have to bite down and not be buddy-buddy so much on the field, and really get after those guys. I really think his leadership skills are gonna develop. The coaches are gonna be depending on him. A lot of people are gonna be dependent on him. He's gonna be the best player on the defensive side of the ball. The whole defense is gonna look to him as the leader. A lot of fans are gonna expect Colvin to get these guys right. I have high expectations for him. I really want him to be that guy and really set those guys straight as far as winter workouts.”
You talked early last year about your struggle to become a better vocal leader. Are you and Aaron the same in that way?
“Me and Colvin are pretty much the same. We're not the type to bash on a teammate or get all in a teammate's face when he's doing bad. But when it's time, we will say something. On the field, but also off the field, whether it's school, stuff at home ... if he speaks up, a lot of guys will respect him and look up to him.”
So many off-the-field issues hurt the team your junior year, but most of that seemed to get cleaned up this year. Did your senior group put an emphasis on staying out of trouble off the field?
“We stressed a lot that off-the-field issues last year are what really hurt us. Last year's three losses, a lot of guys couldn't play. We tried not to let little small things like that affect the team. Things like that we can control, we tried to not let those things affect the season for us. This season was 10 times better than last year.”
What kind of pro do you think Tony Jefferson will be?
“He's gonna be the same kinda person I am. He's a young cat. He's younger than me, but he's played just as much as I have. He's going in there as a learner. He's gonna be kinda learning everything. He's not gonna be a hot head thinking he knows everything. We're both going in with humble hearts and trying to make the best of it.”
Were you surprised Tom Wort declared for the draft?
“I was a bit surprised. I didn't know Tom was thinking about coming out. But he felt it was the best decision for him. Big ups to him, wherever he's training at. I hope he's getting better and gets the chance to play in the NFL.”
How much of a struggle was it for those linebackers (Tom Wort and Corey Nelson) in the new system?
“I know it was a big challenge for them. We played a lot of spread teams. Just to not have linebackers in the game in such crucial moments against great teams, I knew it was kinda hard for them. I knew they didn't like it so much. But they stayed with the system and really gave it their all. You have to respect them for that character and just staying focused, not showing their emotion at the school or in the film room, things like that. I know it hurt them a lot, but that's just the way coaches had it this year. Those guys want to be on the field just as much as a DB wants to play.”
Anything else you want to add?
“I always wanted to let Oklahoma know much I respect the Sooner Nation and Sooner fans. I want to thank Sooner fans for being there for me, supporting me and watching me the last four years. They really respected me as a player both on and off the field. I love them and I just want to let them know I'm out here being humble about things, and I'm out here grinding and trying to get to the next level so they can watch me play football again.”