Oklahoma State football: Desmond Roland starring at OSU because of rough first two years in Stillwater

by Jenni Carlson Published: January 2, 2014
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photo - Oklahoma State junior running back Desmond Roland speaks to the media during an NCAA college football press conference, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, in Irving, Texas. Oklahoma State takes on Missouri in the Cotton Bowl on Friday in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
Oklahoma State junior running back Desmond Roland speaks to the media during an NCAA college football press conference, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, in Irving, Texas. Oklahoma State takes on Missouri in the Cotton Bowl on Friday in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Desmond Roland fumed for the better part of a year.

Mad at his coaches.

Mad at him teammates.

“Mad at the world almost,” he said.

The Oklahoma State tailback seethed in silence during most of his first year in Stillwater. After playing a reserve role in the Cowboys' first few games of the 2011 season, he never touched the ball again. He got so angry that it began to affect other parts of his life.

But now, Roland says had he not gone through that time, he wouldn't be the running back he is today — a running back who could be the difference in the Cotton Bowl.

On Friday night, Roland and his OSU teammates will face a Missouri defense that has been among the nation's best against the run. Through 12 games, it allowed only 119.1 rushing yards a game.

Then along came the SEC title game.

Auburn rolled up 545 rushing yards, using a heavy dose of zone read, exploiting Missouri's so-so defensive tackles and keeping its defensive ends from doing what they do best and pass rushing.

Roland, of course, has seen that game film.

“And I was just smackin' my lips, droolin' down,” he said. “I was like, ‘This is some good news here.'”

He laughed, his eyes widening, his legs bouncing.

That kind of giddiness isn't something you would've seen out of Roland a couple years ago.

Like most major-college recruits, he arrived at school having always been the star. No matter the age. No matter the sport. There was never a question of whether he would play; it was how much.

And as a true freshman at OSU, Roland did play. Eight carries in the opener against Louisiana-Lafayette. Two against Tulsa. Seven in mop-up duty against Kansas.

Then after that, nothing. Nada.

“I didn't know how to take it, I didn't know how to handle it,” Roland said. “I thought it was the coaches. I was blaming them.”

He thought about leaving OSU or even quitting football all together.

But he didn't tell anyone about any of it. Not his anger. Not his frustration. Even though he's extremely close with his parents and keeps regular contact with his former high school coach, they knew nothing of his inner rage.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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