STILLWATER — Cooper Bassett ventured home to Tuttle, finally clear of the spring semester and finding some time before football demands beckoned again all too soon.
Everywhere Bassett went — to Tuttle High to show off his Big 12 championship ring to coach Philip Koons; to the breakfast joint; around the old neighborhood — the Oklahoma State senior said he experienced nothing short of a hero's welcome.
“What I love about playing in my home state and what I love about playing for Oklahoma State is the love and support you get is unmatched,” Bassett said. “The OSU fan base is tried and true. Like our alma mater says, ‘Ever You'll Find Us, Loyal and True.'
“That's spot on.”
In the months since beating Oklahoma to clinch the Big 12 title and then adding a Fiesta Bowl conquest of Stanford, the Cowboys have been showered with congratulations and love and hearty thanks.
For as good as 2011 was for the team, OSU's patient fan base was rewarded, too, going along for a ride that produced a school-record 12 wins, the program's first outright conference championship since the 1940s and the Cowboys' BCS bowl debut.
“We've had a lot of fans come out and congratulate us,” said offensive lineman Lane Taylor. “They'd been waiting for a year like that, especially the older fans who had been here a while. It was great to please the fans and give them a part of history.”
And, oh, how they appreciate it, in some cases to the point of tears.
“Whenever we beat OU and won the Big 12 championship,” Bassett said, “we had people come up and say their 60-year-old parents were boohooing after the game because it meant so much to them.
“And it's neat because it's genuine. It's not bandwagon, it's not the newest flavor, it's people who genuinely care about it and care about you.”
Cowboys coach Mike Gundy likes to share tales of the chatter he hears at the gas station and the coffee shop.
Lately, of course, it's been all good, extending well beyond Stillwater to the outlying towns and suburbs and cities the current Cowboys call home.
And because of last year's breakthrough season, OSU's players and fans might be developing an even closer bond.
“It's neat to be so proud of your season,” Bassett said. “And to not only be proud of it, but to be the first. The first team to win a Big 12 championship. The first team to beat OU in a while. The first team to win a BCS game. Be the first team to go to a BCS game.
“It's nice, not necessarily in our own locker room, but you get the fans who are so bought into the system now. We as players have been bought in for a long time. We never doubt or question our confidence or how we're going to win.
“We've had fans who have kind of questioned it, because of OSU in the past. But it's nice to finally give them a reason to buy in and be totally confident in us.”
Now, to foster that bond and confirm the confidence.
The Cowboys report for fall camp Thursday, with the first preseason practice set for Friday. And they insist they're intent on keeping the love affair going.
And that means winning.
“It's nice. We had a great season last year,” said running back Joseph Randle. "We're just trying to do it again.
“I don't want it to stop. I don't want the party to stop.”