STILLWATER — On a Wednesday night about three weeks ago, Kirk Tucker got the phone call that changed his future.
Or, at least, altered the course.
A Stanford admissions liaison delivered the news that Tucker hadn't been admitted to the school he had been committed to since August. So with little time remaining until Signing Day, Tucker suddenly had to scramble to find another program.
Enter Oklahoma State.
The Cowboys immediately re-entered the picture once Tucker, a three-star linebacker/safety hybrid from Tucker (Ga.) High, reopened his recruitment. Then they snagged an official visit. Then a pledge following that trip.
“I can't lie, these last couple weeks have been stressful,” Tucker said. “But with the help of my parents and my coaches, I've been able to get through it.”
It made sense why Tucker was originally enamored with Stanford. He had visited campus three or four times. It was the first school that offered. And it's, well, Stanford.
So he decided to go ahead and commit early, allowing him to focus on school and his senior football season.
Still, Tucker and coach Bryan Lamar discussed that Stanford's high admission standards could force Tucker into a Plan B. And when Tucker got the news he did not make the cut, his father, Kirk Tucker Sr., quickly called a family meeting to regroup.
“That's life,” the elder Tucker said. “It's a growing process for a young person at 17 years old … times when you hurt, you have to pick yourself up and be able to continue. Because at the end of the day, the goal is still the same. It just might be in a different direction.”
Added the younger Tucker: “It was a pretty down moment. But I got right back up and had to realize that this whole thing is a business and everything can't go my way. I got over it pretty much that night.”
The younger Tucker first called Lamar, who then reached out to friend and OSU graduate assistant Eric Henderson. Henderson was thrilled about the possibility of the Cowboys re-entering Tucker's recruitment, who then passed on the news to defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer.
Spencer then stopped by for an in-home visit and convinced the Tuckers to come to OSU for an official visit.
The Tuckers had never been to Oklahoma, but Dad said they were “blown away” by OSU's atmosphere. Cowboy players reminded the younger Tucker of his high school teammates. Coaches were family-oriented. Stillwater was a prototypical college town, where students stuck around on weekends.