Saturday Tailgate: Oklahoma Sooners
September, 6, 2013
By Brandon Chatmon | ESPN.com
Brett Deering/Getty ImagesWhen the Sooners run down the tunnel and onto the Memorial Stadium turf, it's football time.
NORMAN, Okla. -- With an arched back and arms swinging, the long-striding drum major of the Pride of Oklahoma, The University of Oklahoma’s band, high steps from midfield to the endzone.
It’s about that time.
“When the drum major rolls down the field, that’s one of those things that’s pretty special if you’ve never seen it,” OU All-Big 12 center Gabe Ikard said.
It’s gameday, and the Sooners football team is just minutes away from taking the field. Anticipation fills the air, the stands are overflowing with crimson-and-cream clad faithful and the Sooner Schooner, surrounded by OU's all-male spirit squad "The Ruf/Neks", rolls across the turf.
Seconds later, images of great Oklahoma coaches and players of the past fill the massive video board at the south end of Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. The video continues for a minute and a half, featuring a laundry list of the Sooners’ accomplishments -- from their seven national titles to their 44 conference titles.
“People don’t know what it means to be a champion,” the loud speakers blare across the stadium. “Oklahoma invented it.”
As the intro video winds down, head coach Bob Stoops appears with one finger raised.
“There’s only one,” he states.
Rick Yeatts/Getty ImagesGabe Ikard grew up a Sooners fan and has fond memories of the pageantry at home games.
As the phrase, “There’s only one Oklahoma” flashes on the screen, Sooners fans hold their fingers up in unison.
“Even as a fan, the highlight of game day for me was always the intro video,” says Ikard, an Oklahoma City native who grew up a Sooners fan before fulfilling his dream of becoming a core member of his childhood favorite team. “I loved that.”
Meanwhile, underneath the South stands, as the Sooners walk through the tunnel toward the Memorial Stadium turf, tradition follows them. Sam Bradford, Gerald McCoy and Adrian Peterson are just a few of the Sooners’ greats that adorn the walls of the Switzer Center as the Sooners walk toward battle. A consistent, yet subtle reminder to the current players that they have a tradition to uphold.
“There are so many great players that have played on that field,” receivers coach Jay Norvell said. “Walking down that tunnel and touching that sign is a huge tradition. That’s important to everyone who walks through there.”
The tradition, the passion, the history of the Oklahoma program is second to none. And it’s something Norvell tries to sell to recruits during the recruiting process.
“There’s a huge sense of pride coming down that tunnel,” he says. “You see a lot of the major building blocks to come through this program. Coach [Bennie] Owen, Coach [Bud] Wilkinson, Coach [Barry] Switzer, the images are all around you.”
A few steps are all it takes to emerge into the sunlight to be greeted by 80,000 fans in the stands.
It’s football time in Oklahoma.