DALLAS — Jalen Saunders found out Wednesday his appeal to the NCAA for immediate eligibility was approved.
Saturday, the junior receiver, who transferred from Fresno State, was in the Cotton Bowl playing in Oklahoma's 63-21 rout of Texas.
As a sophomore last season, Saunders was a first-team All-WAC selection after leading Fresno State in receiving with 50 catches, 1,065 yards and 12 touchdowns.
His waiver request was initially denied, so he had to sit out Oklahoma's first four 2012 games. Wednesday, though, he got word during practice that his appeal had been granted. Saunders declined to discuss the nature of his appeal, but ABC's television announcers said it was because his father had health concerns in the Fresno area, and they were concerned Saunders would be genetically predisposed to those issues.
Saunders was rotated in early Saturday, but didn't make his first catch until the third quarter, when he hauled in a 32-yarder. He later added a 20-yard reception.
How did you feel in the moment when you were told you were eligible?
“I was just doing scout team. People kept calling my name. I'm looking around, and I said, ‘What are you guys talking about?' They said, ‘You got cleared to play.' I was really excited ... I'm happy I played in this game today.”
Because it had been four games, did you think it might not happen for you this season?
“We had a lot of appeals going on. ... I didn't expect it to be done this week. I was surprised. ... My former coach (Pat Hill) vouched for me. I think that may have played a role in it, too.”
After having so much success through fall camp, how disappointing was it to hear your waiver was denied?
“I felt down. They told me they were gonna set up an appeal, so I got my spirits up a little bit for that. I was just playing the waiting game.”
What was the nature of your appeal to the NCAA, and what did they see that allowed them to grant it?
“It's a personal thing with my father and me. I can't really talk too much on it because it's more of a personal thing. I'm just glad the NCAA reviewed it and felt where I was coming from with the appeal and everything.”
A lot of receivers have excelled out of the slot in this offense, most notably Ryan Broyles. Does that excite you?
“I watched a lot of film on Ryan in the summer and the whole fall. I've been preparing to play in every game every week.”