HUNTSVILLE, Texas – Night has fallen on Bowers Stadium, where friends and family mingle leisurely with Sam Houston State football players and coaches with no particular place to go.
No barriers separate the few fans from the hometown Bearkats. No campus cops rush folks away. No traffic jam awaits beyond the stadium's chain-link fences.
It's not like it used to be for Rhett Bomar, who played his way to college football's big time at Oklahoma but now toils here in obscurity, the result of his much-publicized trouble with the NCAA.
Bomar's botched Sooner career is a tired tale — at least the tale we assume to know.
"There's a lot of stuff that happened that nobody even knows about,” Bomar says, offering only that tease after leading Division I-AA Sam Houston State to a 48-10 win over Arkansas-Monticello two weekends ago. "But I'm not going to talk about that stuff.
"Everybody thinks they know the whole story, but they don't. I just put that away. I don't want to talk about that anymore. I moved on.”
Oh, but everybody else will be talking this week, with Bomar due back in state. Sam Houston visits Oklahoma State on Saturday.
No looking back
Conversations with Bomar always get spun ahead, him steering away from questions aimed at his fateful final days in Norman.
He sounds a bit like Mark McGwire before Congress.
"Once I moved on, I moved on,” Bomar says. "I've put that behind me. I'm thinking about the future now.”
One day he was the bright young quarterback on a team Athlon magazine pegged for its No. 1 team. Then in an instant, he was gone, along with lineman J.D. Quinn, after investigation revealed both received improper payments for work not performed at Big Red Sports and Imports.
"It was tough,” Bomar says, "going to a different place, picking up and leaving real fast.”
Bomar has always accepted responsibility for the actions leading to his dismissal. Still does.
Where he used to be overtly cocky, Bomar seems to have been humbled.
"I didn't come down here with an ego or anything like that,” Bomar says. "I came looking for a second chance, ready to play football.
"And it's been great so far.”
By all indications, Bomar's transition has gone smoothly.
"We gave him some crap, gave him a bunch crap when he first got here,” said Bearkats offensive lineman R.C. Fairchild. "But he's a good guy. He's one of us.”
Says Sam Houston coach Todd Whitten: "He's fit in great. I think he's really a happy camper here. Last year was very tough. I can tell you that unequivocally, our football team is really happy that Rhett's a part of this program.
"He's making good grades. He's really a bright kid.”
Huntsville, population 35,078, is known mostly for its ties to the legendary Sam Houston, one-time general and twice president of the Republic of Texas in the 1800s.
The university obviously adopted his name and a 77-foot-tall statue of the former governor stands perched proudly along I-45. There's Huntsville Prison, the oldest penitentiary in Texas, housing the death chamber, home to the state's death row from 1928 to 1965.
Dan Rather is the famous Sam Houston State alum.
Beyond that, there's not much, although most consider the setting quite soothing here in the Piney Woods region of the state.
As for the Bearkats, interest in the team is akin to the following for Central Oklahoma's Bronchos. There's a couple thousand in the stands for Sam Houston's game against Arkansas-Monticello, less than half of whom seem interested in anything going on down on the turf.
"Never heard of him,” says Echo Messer, a Sam Houston senior from Porter, Texas, on hand for the game with Arkansas-Monticello.
Rhett Bomar slideshow