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

By Scott Wright Published: August 24, 2008

e have academic support like crazy and that makes it a lot easier. We didn't have that at juco. They really want you to succeed and that's what I like.”

Wait paid off for Denning
As a high school senior, Steve Denning had a variety of scholarship offers from four-year colleges. But none of them were to his liking, because none of them were from NCAA Division I programs.

Going to a D-I school was his primary football goal, and he wasn't going to stop short of giving himself every opportunity to achieve it.

So the Southhaven, Miss., offensive lineman chose junior college, enrolling at Northwest Mississippi Community College. Two years later, Denning achieved his dream when he signed with Oklahoma State.

For some players, junior college is the only viable route to take, because of academics. But Denning didn't fall into that category.

"I was small coming out of high school,” said Denning, now 6-foot-5 and 295 pounds. "I could've gone to a D-II school, maybe a couple of I-AA's or something, but I wanted to go D-I.”

The life of a junior-college player isn't always easy. But if you get to the payoff, it's well worth the struggles.

"It was difficult at times,” Denning said. "But in the end, it's the best thing that could've happened to me.”

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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