NORMAN — The football felt absolutely perfect when it left James Winchester’s hands. It wasn’t. On the first play of his college career, Oklahoma’s back-up deep snapper committed the biggest of blunders. He snapped it too high and too hard, over the punter’s head and out of the end zone for a safety. It was Chattanooga’s only score Saturday night. “It’s kind of a bad way to start college,” Winchester admitted, “but it’s all right.” Saturday, you see, was not a disaster for the walk-on from Washington. It wasn’t even a disappointment. It was a dream. On a night many wondered what the Sooners could’ve possibly gotten out of a 57-2 rout, Winchester took away a lifetime of memories. He wasn’t even old enough to be in kindergarten when he started going to OU games, but he’s been dreaming about becoming a Sooner ever since. He watched for all those years with his family in the southeast corner of the stadium, 32 rows from the field. Saturday, Winchester saw the game from a new perspective. “It’s really cool being on the other end of it,” he said. “Just to get an opportunity to come up here and play, it’s really cool.” Don’t let the aw-shucks personality of a kid from McClain County fool you. This opportunity didn’t just fall into his lap. This dream didn’t just happen. Winchester fought for it. He has crimson and cream in his blood. His father, Mike, was the punter on OU’s 1985 championship team. His older sister, Carolyn, is a walk-on turned scholarship player on the OU women’s basketball team. Still, the Sooners weren’t beating a path to Winchester’s door. Neither were many other teams. A few small colleges showed interest in the first-team Little All-City wide receiver, but Winchester decided to walk on at OU. And he thought deep snapping might get him noticed. The only trick was learning how to do it. Winchester wasn’t a deep snapper in high school. He was actually the punter. But occasionally when his dad would help young punters, Winchester would provide the snaps. “It was one of those things that I put in my back pocket,” he said. He started working on it a couple months ago and made steady progress throughout the summer. Still, Winchester might not have gotten a chance had veteran deep snapper Derek Shaw not partially torn his Achilles last spring. But with Shaw still nursing that injury, Winchester got the call Saturday night. “I hate to hope for an early punt,” his dad said, but that’s exactly what he did. “I wanted him on the field to get that first one out of the way.” But the Sooners didn’t punt in the first quarter. Ditto for the second quarter as they scored on every possession and built a 50-0 halftime lead. And then the rains came. Lightning delayed the start of the second half for more than an hour, and by the time Winchester trotted onto the Owen Field turf for the Sooners’ first punt, more than half of the fans had left the stadium. No one from his family had, though. Almost two dozen family members, a few who even made a special trip from Texas, were scattered around the stadium. Text messages were flying, and tears were flowing. Pam Winchester got emotional just watching her son in warm-ups. “It’s been his dream since he was big enough to walk,” she said of being a Sooner. “It’s neat to see your kids realize their dreams.” And even though that first snap went awry — “I just got out there and started thinking about too many things,” Winchester said — one bad moment could not spoil the night. He was rock solid the rest of the game, but even those perfect snaps didn’t define this game. Winchester got to put on the uniform, run out of the tunnel and trot onto the field. He got to be a Sooner. Mike Winchester snapped over 150 pictures Saturday because he knew what the day meant to his son. This past week, James told him all about practicing in the stadium for the first time after the field had been marked. They were testing the scoreboard and using the sound system, and it felt like game day. “We have talked about how fun it would be for him to be out there,” his dad said. “Trying to hold back all that emotion ... it’s years in the making.” No wonder that first snap went a little high. What happens next is anyone’s guess. Shaw is expected to be healthy for next Saturday’s game against Cincinnati, so Winchester might lose his spot. But for now, he isn’t going to concern himself with that. “I’ll do anything to help this team out,” Winchester said. “It doesn’t matter what I do. Any spot I can help them out, I’m gonna do it.” Even though his first snap was far from grand, the same cannot be said of his first game as a Sooner. It felt absolutely perfect.