NORMAN — Last fall, Trey Metoyer trudged a round-trip mile through the wilderness, on a winding, gravel path that veered down into a valley and back up a hill to reach “The Grave,” as Hargrave Military Academy's football practice field is known.
“It felt like three miles, man,” said Metoyer, appearing exhausted just thinking about it.
The bee stings and spider bites he suffered on those daily treks — along with the difficulties, frustration and homesickness of being stuck at military school — all made it possible for the freshman wide receiver to be in Norman on Saturday, where, in his OU jersey, he signed autographs for fans and later spoke to reporters at Meet the Sooners Day and media day.
All of that seemed far, far away just months ago.
Hargrave Military Academy, tucked away in the small, southern Virginia town of Chatham, is far removed from where Metoyer thought he'd spend his first year after high school.
Metoyer was the crown jewel of Oklahoma's 2011 recruiting class: a five-star wide receiver from Whitehouse, Texas, with the potential to be an immediate difference maker.
But after a spring and summer loaded with the coursework he needed to complete to enroll, Metoyer still couldn't become eligible.
He thought he'd made it, and was surprised one day when he came home and found his dad, David, gathered with a small group of family and friends in the living room.
“I called some people around to have kind of an intervention,” David Metoyer said.
“I wanted everybody to be there to support him when I told him that he did not qualify. I didn't want him to just jump up and say, ‘I'm done with it.'”
Trey Metoyer sat on the couch and experienced a wave of emotions as he was told the bad news.
“I was just mad,” Trey Metoyer said. “I just wanted to punch a wall.
“At the time, I felt like giving up. I was thinking, ‘I guess football's just not for me.'”
On OU co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell's recommendation, David and Trey Metoyer had already begun preparing for possible ineligibility by researching Hargrave and talking with its postgraduate football coach, Troy Davis.
That night, David Metoyer called Davis, who reassured Trey that he would help him make it to Oklahoma.
Then the father and son called Norvell, who was Metoyer's primary recruiter.
Norvell told Trey Metoyer, “We don't want you; we need you.”
About 10 minutes later, Trey looked up and said, “Dad, when can I leave?”
“That's when I saw my son, in all honesty, go straight from a boy to a man,” David Metoyer said.
‘A spartan existence'
Just getting to Chatham was daunting for Trey Metoyer.
He'd flown one time in his life — and that was a brief trip within Texas — and now he was moving across the country to take on a military lifestyle.
Hargrave cadets range from seventh graders to high-school seniors, many of whom are there to pursue military careers. But the boarding school also boasts a popular postgraduate football program for players — many NCAA Division I signees — who, for often academic reasons, don't reach their intended destination.
Many Hargrave postgraduate alumni have gone on to great college and professional careers, like former NFL star wideout Torry Holt.
“That was a good thing for Trey to know coming in,” Davis said. “He did his research and I told him, ‘Don't look at this as a disappointment. Look at all the guys who are in the NFL who had to come through Hargrave.' That opened his eyes.”
Still, adjusting to the military life is difficult.