Richetti Jones just couldn't understand it. He couldn't fathom how his former teammates wouldn't show up at the Big 12 Media Days in Dallas flashing their bling and reminding Sooners and Longhorns and everyone else how they stormed to the conference title a year ago.
Jones, a 2011 senior and budding media member, wore his sparkling Big 12 championship ring proudly as a member of OSU's traveling party.
But those on official business – Joseph Randle, Cooper Bassett and Lane Taylor – left theirs at home.
In 2012, the Cowboys haven't won anything. And they know it. And that's how they're approaching it.
Better be approaching it.
“It's time to move on from last year,” Randle said. “We don't have the same guys. We've got to create our own identity.”
Wise words, if the Cowboys can live by them.
Don't look back.
As has been well documented, OSU never experienced success like last year. Big 12 champs. Fiesta Bowl champs. Mike Gundy, National Coach of the Year.
Widespread adoration followed, with pats on the back and loving atta-boys and hugs and even shared tears.
What a year it's been.
Now, however, the Pokes must sift through it all to determine what to carry forward and what to leave behind.
There are things to cling to for sure from 2011. A continued trend of road success; the Cowboys won in Austin, College Station, Columbia and Lubbock. A never-say-die spirit seen in rallying wins over Texas A&M, Kansas State and Stanford. A newfound big-game confidence.
Those can be valuable assets going forward.
But there are potential traps attached to 2012, too, especially for a team that's entered uncharted territory of success. A sense of arrival. Or contentment. Or satisfaction.
There must be a hunger for more.
Don't look back.
“We want to win it again, there's no doubt about that,” said offensive lineman Lane Taylor. “It was great to win it last year. It was awesome to win it for our school. We know that we have to show up and work, work even harder than we did last year to accomplish it again.
“If you look in the past, you're going to get beat. Our coaches, our strength coaches, they make sure we stay focused.”
It's a familiar refrain of August. The proof comes later.
But there is a hint of chippiness among these veteran Cowboys, who seem truly irritated that they've been overlooked as contributors to last year's great gains. They know Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon are gone and understand the duo will be missed.
But they feel they've got something to give – and go get – too.
They're not at all ready to accept that the program's greatest moments came and went last fall.
“No,” said Bassett. “Coach Gundy told us, I think my sophomore year, that in the next five years OSU is going to win a championship. And it came true with a Big 12 championship.
“But the way this program has turned since I got here and the way it's changed, the upswing it's had and the amount of talent it brings in year in and year out and the culture change that we've had… I think it's not out of the realm of possibility that OSU is going to win a national championship here in the near future.”