STILLWATER — Ernesto Villanueva had never been to Oklahoma State's Fan Appreciation Day, but he knew this year he had to travel from Clinton and bring his two sons when the opportunity arose.
Villanueva was beaming Saturday as Dominik, 9, and Rodman, 6, got to meet Cowboys players, but the proudest moment came when Dominik met quarterback Clint Chelf.
“I'm over here trembling for him,” Ernesto said immediately after Dominik met Chelf.
Fans poured in Gallagher-Iba Arena in droves, even coming from Arizona to meet their favorite players and coaches.
But none appeared more excited — or stunned — to meet the quarterback viewed as the likely starter this season.
“Unexplainable,” Dominik said searching for words after he met Chelf.
Ernesto even struggled to find the right words, saying “Right now words can't say what they're going (through).”
Ernesto has been a lifelong OSU fan, rooting from afar in Clinton. He said he has an OSU sticker on his car and an OSU flag in his yard. He also plans to get a Pistol Pete tattoo on his shoulder next year.
Now, he's gearing up for a season in which the Cowboys are facing uncharted expectations as the Big 12 favorite.
“I'm very excited,” Villanueva said. “I saw that they're ranked No. 1 in the Big 12 and I was like, ‘All right.' I've got family and friends that disrespect on OSU, but I stand behind them.”
And the Villanuevas stand behind Chelf as the quarterback.
Dominik's eyes lit up when Chelf signed his No. 81 OSU jersey, just like many of the other players and coaches did. But Chelf was special.
He started last season as the third-string quarterback, essentially an afterthought. But his rise to No. 1 on the depth chart will now become a positive example for Dominik.
“It's a little kid's dream to be a quarterback of the team,” Ernesto said. “He hasn't read much about (Chelf's rise), but I'm going to have him read it and get some inspiration from it.”