Larry Mahsetky went to buy a few newspapers from a grocery store the morning of Aug. 1 and was greeted with two surprises.
First, by a large color photo of Mahsetky and his mother on the front page of the sports section.
Second, by a customer in the store with a question. Are you Larry Mahsetky?
“I’ve signed a few autographs, believe it or not,” Mahsetky laughed. “For young and old.”
A quick refresher: Mahsetky was that former “1990s-era” Oklahoma State football player whose recent graduation lifted an NCAA penalty against the Cowboy football program. Because he chose to go back to school and graduate more than 20 years after he first stepped on campus, OSU received a previously penalized two hours of practice time each week.
Even though Mahsetky knew his story was going to be published in The Oklahoman, he never quite expected the aftermath it would bring. And it all started when he saw his own face looking back up at him in that Friday’s edition.
“My mom and I were blown away that we were on the cover of the sports page,” Mahsetky said.
Since the story was unveiled, Mahsetky said old football friends have contacted him and offered their appreciation. He’s had multiple interview requests from a number of different media organizations. His story was retold by ESPN, Yahoo, CBS, NBC and others.
“I think one of the coolest things was that I was on NFL.com,” Mahsetky said. “I always dreamed of being in the NFL.”
Mahsetky said he’s been recognized in public a few times. A couple of those OSU fans even asked for a signature near his smiling face on print copies of the story. But his favorite moment from the APR-aftershock took place Saturday.
Coach Mike Gundy invited him to practice.
“I think some of the first words out of his mouth were, ‘You did it!’” Mahsetky said.
When Mahsetky first spoke with the OSU compliance office in July to confirm he was the player in question, he said department director Kevin Fite relayed a message from Gundy that he wanted Mahsetky as a practice visitor.
So Saturday morning, he hopped in the car with his longtime girlfriend, Stephanie Christie, and her son, Jett, and made the drive from Moore to Stillwater.
Mahsetky chatted with Gundy before practice began about family, work and the upcoming season.
“He said he couldn’t thank me enough,” Mahsetky said.
After that, Mack Butler, director of football operations, led Mahsetky and his family on a tour of the facilities. He said they were “welcomed with open arms” and “given the VIP treatment.”
“It’s hard to describe the facilities,” Mahsetky said. “What Boone Pickens has done is incredible. You hear about the money that’s been donated, but when you actually see all the things that come from this, it’s just jaw-dropping.”
As the day wrapped up, Mahsetky pointed to a couple things that really stood out. First, being the memories Jett took away from the trip.
Mahsetky said the entire team and coaching staff gave Jett high-fives when they entered the Sherman E. Smith Training Facility.
“This experience was probably one of the greatest of his seven-year-old life so far,” Mahsetky said. “He starts school tomorrow. He wants to take a shirt he had autographed by a bunch of players to show it off.”
Mahsetky also wanted to make sure his message was passed on to the players.
“I hope that a couple of those guys can remember my story,” Mahsetky said. “I know that a lot of players, even myself, get caught up in the athletic side of it and academics go on the backburner. But those guys are there to get an education and I hope they realize how fortunate they are and make the most of their opportunity.”