STILLWATER — A young Cowboy defensive back remembers the hit because it’s one of the reasons he committed to play football at Oklahoma State.
The scene: Two minutes into the first quarter of the 2011 Fiesta Bowl. It’s scoreless. Stanford’s Andrew Luck faces second-and-long at the OSU 43-yard line.
The call from the TV booth: “You could see that hit coming!”
Luck threw a dart to tight end Ty Montgomery toward the far sideline. Seconds later, Montgomery and his white helmet rolled along the turf as OSU safety Markelle Martin stood over him, waving a black-gloved hand in front of his facemask.
“I was watching that Stanford game probably my junior year, and I see Markelle come up and hit that tight end,” defensive back Jordan Sterns said Saturday. “That was before I was committed and everything. But the way he got up and reacted, the way the crowd reacted … it was something I liked.”
And now, the hit is something Sterns and fellow safety Larry Stephens are hoping to replicate. The pair are expected to fill the void this season left open by Daytawion Lowe and Shamiel Gary.
So which of the two current OSU safeties packs a better punch?
“About even,” Stephens said.
“We both come (and) hit,” Sterns agreed. “All the safeties do, really.”
But that’s yet to be seen. This season will be Stephens’ and Sterns’ first as major contributors in the Cowboy secondary.
Stephens — a 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior — has appeared in 37 career games with 35 tackles, mostly as a special teams contributor. A knee injury against Mississippi State in the opener kept him sidelined all of 2013.
Sterns — a 6-foot-1, 205-pound sophomore — played in every game but the first last season. He finished with 13 tackles; four against UTSA that marked a season-high.
Considering the paths they’ve taken to reach this point, each brings a different mentality. When Sterns starts playing off too much emotion, he said Stephens helps bring him back down.
“(Stephens) does a great job explaining to me, calming me down,” Sterns said. “I’m sure he’s going to do the same thing come Aug. 30 when I’m going to be pretty nervous, inexperienced going against Florida State. I know I can look over and Larry’s going to be there to keep me calm … It’s just football.”
For Stephens, the 2014 season is all about redemption.
“It does mean a lot more, since last year I got hurt in the first game of the season,” Stephens said. “I had to wait the whole year to play another game. So it’s exciting to get back out there.”
The stage couldn’t be brighter for the duos’ opening act in the secondary. A chance for their own highlight hits to a national TV audience.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Sterns said. “People always say that when you get an opportunity, don’t look back and take advantage of it. I’m just trying to continue to work hard, improve my game.”