STILLWATER — Glenn Spencer anticipated saying no to Tyler Patmon.
The Cowboys' defensive coordinator didn't know Patmon's story, but he knew how stories like his usually go, when a player receives his release from another school, as Patmon did from Kansas last year, and goes in search of a new program.
So when Patmon's father first called to express an interest in his son finishing his career at Oklahoma State, Spencer played polite, but ...
“Typically, the red flags come up,” Spencer said. “There's usually a reason that guys leave and transfer, and usually they're not good reasons. And then you start researching and looking into it.
“I was thinking I might look into it and it's going to be an issue we don't want to deal with. And you say no and move on.”
Except the more Spencer dug, the more he dug Patmon's profile.
And now that Patmon is filling a critical role in the Cowboys' secondary, Spencer is glad he carried out his due diligence.
“Tyler has been a tremendous asset to us, really has,” Spencer said.
Patmon, who has played in all eight games and started two — including last week's win at Texas Tech, subbing for injured cornerback Kevin Peterson — ranks second on the team with eight pass breakups. He's also forced a fumble and intercepted a pass, contributing to an OSU turnover margin of plus-10 that leads the Big 12.
“Tyler's made a lot of plays,” said Cowboys defensive tackle Calvin Barnett. “As soon as he got here, I was watching his footwork when they were doing 7-on-7 (drills) and stuff like that. I knew he had some talent. But the way he's put it together has been really good.”
With Peterson out due to an undisclosed injury at Tech, Patmon was called on to start against a Red Raiders offense that ranks among the nation's most productive. The Cowboys limited Tech to four scores in 18 possessions, with Patmon contributing six tackles — one for loss — along with a pass breakup and a forced fumble. He might have given the OSU defense its third defensive touchdown in two weeks, scooping up a fumble by Red Raiders quarterback Davis Webb, but the play was whistled dead, with officials ruling that Webb's forward progress had stopped.
“The biggest compliment I can give him,” Spencer said, “I knew earlier last week that he was going to start — Kevin wasn't going to make the trip — and I didn't think about it all week. It wasn't a concern to me. I didn't change the game plan. I didn't call a different game. How nice is that?
“It didn't cross my mind. During the game it didn't cross my mind.”
Patmon was a three-year starter at Kansas, yet left the program after the 2012 season when he didn't mesh with new coach Charlie Weis' staff. On track to graduate last spring, Patmon was able to transfer and play immediately. When Weis signed off on his release, contact was made with the Cowboys.
“You never want to get somebody else's trash,” OSU cornerbacks coach Van Malone said during the summer. “You never want to get a guy who's disgruntled and who's just running away from discipline.”
Malone soon found out that wasn't the case with Patmon. And Spencer discovered the same.
“I kept asking questions and no red flags came up,” Spencer said. “This was just a kid who wasn't getting an opportunity up there and wanted to finish out in a good situation.”
The next step was for Patmon to make a visit to Stillwater, serving as an interview process for player and coaches.
“I had to get a feel for what this kid was like, hear from him the story about what happened up there,” Spencer said. “And see if it was somebody we wanted to bring in to our family. That's like inviting somebody into your home, somebody you don't know, to cohabitate with your kids. Yeah, I'm going to get to know the situation.
“We had a tremendous visit with him and I saw it in his eyes that he wanted to come here — in my mind — for all the right reasons. And he hasn't disappointed one day.”
And while Patmon isn't available for interviews under Mike Gundy's rules for first-year players, the switch to OSU hasn't disappointed for him, either.
The Cowboys' seven wins this season are more than Patmon enjoyed in his three-year playing career at Kansas, where the Jayhawks went 3-9 in 2010, 2-10 in 2011 and 1-11 a year ago. KU closed last season on an 11-game losing streak.
“After our first game, Mississippi State, he was talking about how happy he was, because he hadn't won a game in so long,” said Cowboys safety Lyndell Johnson. “You can just tell; you know, when someone's happy. He's doing everything in his power to help us win and to better us.
“We're glad we've got him. And he's said how much this team means to him and how glad he is that we let him into our family.”
With the Jayhawks visiting Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday, Patmon can continue to boost the Cowboys — at KU's expense. Already, this season promises to end better than any in Lawrence. And Spencer made a point to mark a significant occasion after OSU's win at Iowa State two Saturdays ago.
The Cowboys had boarded two buses for the ride to the airport in Des Moines, when Spencer realized he had something to say to Patmon.
“I'm on bus one and he's on bus two,” Spencer said, “and before we leave, I get off my bus and I go back and I find him. He's on the back of the bus, back there with his headphones on. I walk back there and he took his headphones off and said, ‘What's up coach?' He thought he was in trouble.
“I said, ‘Congratulations; thanks for taking the chance on us and congratulations on the first and only bowl game of your career, we just clinched win No. 6.' He got a big old smile on his face. He's a fifth-year senior who's never been to a bowl game. Pretty special.”