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Oklahoma football: Tony Jefferson, Kenny Stills' departures creates openings for different kind of OU leaders

COMMENTARY — Tony Jefferson and Kenny Stills were poised to move into prominent leadership roles on the Oklahoma football team. Their departures create an opportunity for leaders for whom wearing a Sooner uniform is something special.
by Jenni Carlson Published: January 7, 2013

Are those guys around?

You have to think so, with the likes of Sterling Shepard and Gabe Ikard, Aaron Colvin and Bronson Irwin on the roster. Those guys are Oklahomans who grew up with a fire for the Sooners.

Take Irwin, the offensive lineman. There's a great story about him being a third grader in Mustang and finding himself awe-struck the day then-Sooner lineman Bubba Burcham visited his classroom. Burcham's sister just happened to be Irwin's teacher.

That day is forever seared into Irwin's memory.

Irwin sees playing for the Sooners as a dream come true.

For Irwin and players like him, being a Sooner matters in a way that's different.

Think about some of the notable Okie Sooners of the past decade or so. Gerald McCoy. Curtis Lofton. J.D. Runnels. Teddy Lehman. Trent Smith. Rocky Calmus. Those guys weren't just passionate about playing college football. They were passionate about being Sooners. And they infused their teammates with that same fire.

They cared about playing for OU in a way that was different from others. And right now, this program needs guys who care passionately about being Sooners to take the lead.

Had Jefferson and Stills returned, they would've been sure leaders. And they would've done a fine job, I suspect. But they would've come at their roles as leaders from a different spot.

Now with their departure to the NFL, there's a chance for next year's team to have a completely different vibe, to trade California cool for Oklahoma tough.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at, follow her at or view her personality page at