STILLWATER — As hard as it might be to fathom, Cooper Bassett — Cowboy to the core — once committed to play football at Kansas State.
Stayed committed, too, for the better part of eight months, sincerely pledged to the color purple and the Powercat and the Little Apple.
Right alongside Collin Klein.
Fast friends, Bassett said he and Klein quickly formed a bond, one that picked up on the many times they arrived on campus for football camps or games. And it's a friendship that carries on.
Except for three hours or so Saturday night.
“There's no love between us then,” Bassett said, “we're just competitors going at it.”
That, Basset said, is the way it must be when wearing different colors inside the 360 x 160 feet dimensions of a football field.
“It's different when you have the pads on and you're in between the white lines,” Bassett said. “I have respect for the kid. And I like him. But whenever we're playing, he's the opposing quarterback, the leader of the opposing offense and my job is to wreak havoc and help shut down their offense and do my best to give him a tough day.”
Same goes for K-State tight end Travis Tannehill, another Wildcat who Bassett considers a friend, but also the enemy standing in the way of the Cowboy and Klein.
“Between the white lines, Travis Tannehill and I aren't friends,” Bassett said. “It's going to be fun to line up across from him — he's a tight end, I'm a defensive end — but we're not friends whatsoever when the ball's in play.
“After the game, it will be laid back and I'll go over and congratulate them and wish them luck.”
The role might have been reversed, if Bassett had stayed with initial commitment, or if OSU had never ponied up a scholarship offer. He might be the one crossing the field late Saturday night, spreading well wishes to all the Cowboys he once played against as an Oklahoma prep star.
As it is, Bassett could be a key figure in OSU's efforts to slow Klein, the clear Heisman front-runner and the driving force behind K-State's ascent to the No. 2 spot in the BCS Standings.
A versatile end who also plays tackle in the Cowboys' speed package, Bassett delivers on-the-field stability and more.
“He's a multiple guy for us, just in his presence on the field,” said OSU co-defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer. “That part of it is tremendous. Now, what he brings beyond that is what's even more tremendous for me. He's definitely the locker room champion. And that's because everybody respects his approach to practices, to games.
“If he feels like there's a lull out there at practice, you hear him barking. If somebody's not running off the field, he's speaking up. As a coach, it takes so much off of you, when you've got your own guys who can police that. And he's the policemen out there.”
K-State, then coached by Ron Prince, was the first to recruit and offer Bassett. And he accepted, recognizing a lot to like in the Wildcats and Manhattan.
A kid from Tuttle, Bassett's first love was OSU. And eventually, it was his choice.
But from April of his junior year to November of his senior year, he was pledged to the Wildcats.
“I went up there quite a bit,” Bassett said. “And I would always get that feeling of small town. And it reminded me a lot of Stillwater. They don't have a huge stadium, but they pack it out. And their fans are great fans, they're dedicated and loyal. It's a small town, it's an agricultural school.
“I really enjoy the campus and have a healthy respect for Manhattan and K-State fans, because they do resemble so much what's at OSU.”
The relationships played a part, too.
And in Klein, Bassett saw plenty to relate to and to admire.
“He's a lot like me personality wise,” Bassett said. “He's a good guy, has great character. Seems like he came from a really good family; middle class family. Midwestern, USA, values. Real Christian kid; very devout in his faith.
“He was just a good person to be around. It seemed like we had a lot of similarities from out family life back home. It made it easier for us to kind of connect and become buddies.”
K-State coaches even enlisted Bassett and Klein, as early commits, to help recruit other prospects to Manhattan, although Bassett isn't sure how effective he was in luring any players.
That was four-plus years ago. Saturday night, Bassett and Klein will come together one more time — likely for the last time as enemies.
And for the two friends, that's what they'll be.
“You've got to be able to flip the switch,” Bassett said. “People have asked me, ‘Would you help him up?' No. I wouldn't help up (Oklahoma's) Landry Jones. I wouldn't help up (Texas') David Ash. That's not what we do as a defense.
“I would never take a cheap shot on Collin. But at the same time, I'm not going to give him any special treatment. He's the bad guy on Saturday and because of that, that's how I'm going to treat him.”