You might not remember Justin Waller. He played a little tight end for OSU from 2004 through 2007. He’s also appalled at what he’s been reading about his alma mater. So he wrote athletic director Mike Holder a note. Waller’s stepfather shared it with me. Here it is:
“Coach Holder, after reading the recently published SI article this morning and watching the various interviews, I thought I would shed some light on what my experience was as a former player that actually played all 4 years and walked away with a degree.
“I earned every bit of playing time I got during my time here. My freshman year I had to rehab back from shoulder surgery. My (redshirt) sophomore year I blew my ankle out in the bowl game against Alabama and had to rehab and wear a boot cast for two months. My (redshirt) junior year I was basically playing with one good ankle because my right ankle had no outer ligament or tendon support; the training room might as well have been my dorm room that year. After my (redshirt) junior year I had to get my ankle completely reconstructed. This is when I came to the conclusion to forego my 5th year of eligibility to graduate and move on with my life. Through these experiences I was still able to fight back and get a significant amount of playing time. It was through these experiences of overcoming adversity that I am so grateful for, even though it caused me to walk away from a game I loved to play.
“Playing football and attending Oklahoma State for 4 years was an experience I will never forget and will always be grateful for. I created lifelong friendships and learned lifelong lessons. During my four-year tenure I was always upheld to the highest of standards and was always expected to take responsibility for my own actions. I know, without a doubt, that my experiences playing college football at Oklahoma State University molded me into the man I am today. Through my 4 years I was taught responsibility and accountability. I was taught the value of hard work. I was also taught how to look adversity in the eye and overcome it; this to me was the most valuable lesson of all. I look forward to teaching my 2 month old son these same lessons as he grows older.
“Coach Gundy always stressed that working hard and being successful on the football field would translate to being successful in life outside of football. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was exactly right. What many of these young men don’t realize is that there is life after football. In life after football there is no training table, there is no scholarship check and there is no free housing. During my time at OSU Coach Gundy truly did set players up to be successful outside of football, whether they realized it or not, by holding them to the highest of standards. Because of this I now have a great job (boring, but good money) with great benefits and am able to provide a good life for my family.
“If there is anything I can do as a former player during this time then please do not hesitate to ask. I know other close friends of mine that played during my tenure feel the same way. No matter what happens I will continue to bleed orange and be a proud alum of Oklahoma State University. Go Pokes!”
I like the approach. Waller doesn’t trash the former players who have spoken out against OSU in Sports Illustrated. He doesn’t claim they’re lying. He doesn’t talk about stuff he doesn’t know. He talks about stuff he does know. Which is his own experience. Which he describes as first-rate.
And by the way, Justin Waller received a reply back from Mike Holder.
“Thank you, Justin. You are what makes my job special.”