STILLWATER — Todd Monken takes in all the chatter suggesting young Wes Lunt's leadership skills and calls for an immediate timeout.
“I'm not in the locker room that much,” Monken said, “except to walk through it and make fun of the guys or something like that. But the reality is, I don't know if he's any kind of a leader. He leads by example. I think he works hard. I think he keeps his mouth shut. I think they think he's a good player.
“When I'm around him, do I think he leads? I don't know. I don't ever hear him say anything, so I don't know how the hell they think he's a leader.”
Oklahoma State's 18-year-old freshman quarterback is a relative newcomer to campus and a complete newcomer to the college game, with nary a meaningful skin on his résumé entering Saturday's game at Arizona.
And still, his teammates already refer to him as a “leader.” While it might be a necessary trait for good quarterbacks, true leadership is an asset that's earned and demonstrated over time.
Maybe, however, with Lunt, it's more a matter of definition than misidentification.
Lunt isn't a rah-rah, butt-slapping rowdy boy. Yet his body language confirms he belongs, despite being a kid quarterback in charge of an offense and team with high expectations.
In essence, he fits, even among a group of players who have already achieved so much and are counting on the quarterback to make sure they accomplish more.
That much, Monken, Oklahoma State's offensive coordinator, is buying. He even offers up an interesting analogy from one of his favorite films, Shawshank Redemption, and the great Tim Robbins character in the leading role.
And remember, Monken is long on record as saying Lunt has “it.”
“It could be body language, the old Andy Dufresne in Shawshank, he just carries himself different,” Monken said. “Maybe just by that, he's different. ‘Nothing gets to me.' And that's what you have to have out of your quarterback. There's going to be tough times, but there's only one guy that really everybody looks to — he's the guy that does everything for us.
“They can't see your body language frustrated. Or they can't see you down, that we have no chance. Because if they see that in you, we have no chance.”
Maybe that's it, because so far, the Cowboys like what they see in Lunt.
“He carries himself really well,” said senior guard Lane Taylor. “The nature of being a freshman, there's so much to take in. He shows up and performs every day.
“It's good see qualities like that, because you want to see a guy who works hard and wants to get better and doesn't think he's arrived, just because he has a certain spot. I'm glad I see those qualities in him.”
Lunt's OSU debut did nothing to damage impressions of his confidence — not before, during or after.
Sitting down for the pregame meal, Lunt was spotted with a huge plate of food, devouring every ounce of it.
“He had enough food on there to feed a horse,” said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy. “I thought, ‘Well, obviously he's not real concerned.'”
Lunt then went out and completed all 11 passes he threw.
“He's very poised,” said Cowboys receiver Isaiah Anderson. “For an 18-year-old to go out there and play on that big of a stage — it was one of our largest home opener (crowds) — and play the way he did, says a lot about him.”
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, who started Denard Robinson as a true freshman quarterback at Michigan, said players are now much better prepared to step into the position.
“Because of the way the high school programs have developed and with the seven-on-seven (camps) in the summer and all that,” Rodriguez said, “you're getting high school kids who understand coverages and have already played in pretty complex offenses.
“I'm sure there's a learning curve when you get to college, because the game's faster, but we're finding out more and more that there's more high school kids who are prepared mentally and physically than maybe ever before.”
So even if they're not quite ready to talk the talk, they can walk the walk.
And so far, Lunt is doing just that.
“He's pretty confident,” Taylor said. “I expect that out of him. He doesn't really buckle under any pressure.”