OSU: For juco transfer Tea, the biggest challenge was physical

By Scott Wright Published: August 24, 2008
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STILLWATER — Oklahoma State's Tonga Tea had only played one year of high school football when he enrolled a Utah's Snow Community College and had no plan of making football into a career.

"I was really just going for school,” he said. "I just played football because I got lonely sitting in the dorm room.”

So when the senior defensive tackle landed at OSU last season, he had no idea what he was stepping into. Tea battled the mental and physical challenges presented in Big 12 Conference football after transferring from Snow.

"The physical part was more challenging for me,” Tea said. "It's taxing on your body. There's more talent everywhere at D-I. The speed of the game changes a lot. It's a lot faster.”

After going through a difficult junior season at OSU, Tea sees how much more prepared this year's crop of junior-college transfers — nine in all, not including walk-ons — are than he was.

"They came in a lot stronger than I did and a lot more willing,” he said. "It took me a while to get on the bus and sell out completely. These guys, they just sold out from the beginning.”

That's good news for OSU. Many of this year's juco transfers will be asked to play right away, either as starters or key reserves.

In the classroom, however, Tea says the transition went much smoother for him, and most junior-college transfers.

"They take care of you here, with tutors and facilitators, making sure you're on top of things,” he said.

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Defensive tackle Tonga Tea transferred to Oklahoma State from Utah's Snow Community College. Tea said it was a huge adjustment for him both mentally and physically. by MATT STRASEN, THE OKLAHOMAN

How I do what I do
Steve Denning explains what it's like when you're working the dirty job of making the transition from a juco.

"Our practices at juco were twice a week, an hour-and-a-half. Up here, sometimes it seems like we practice all day. A lot more working out, a lot more running.

"I played against some pretty good players, a couple of guys who went to Auburn and some guys who went to other big-time places. In juco, you might have four or five guys who are pretty talented, but up here, all of them are talented.”

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