Saturday, December 22, 2012

September 4th 2004: Greatness

The echoes. They give you chills, especially the first time.

BOOMER!! (Echoes)

SOONER!! (Echoes)


It is my first college football game in my 18 years on this earth and I stare in amazement at the crowd at the top row of the student section near the 50 yard line. I am joined by one of my best friends, Chance, who is still a senior in high school. The stadium, I am told, would rank as the 3rd largest city in Oklahoma when it is filled like it is at 11am on game day.

Our side of the stadium is in charge of yelling "Boomer" and the other side, after some echoes, yells back "Sooner." The cheerleaders are in charge with their labeled signs so we will chant in unison. I have never experienced a sporting event, or really any event, like a college football game in Norman. But this story is not about this incredible event that occurs about seven times each fall in Norman. It is not to compare the Norman, Oklahoma experience to other college game day atmospheres. This story is about this particular day, September 4th, 2004. Oklahoma vs Bowling Green.

Expectations are high for this Sooner team. Coming off a disappointing two game losing streak last year and a National Championship runner up finish, we are a favorite to return to that final game. Almost every starter has returned including our Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jason White. Expectations are that this opening game will be a breeze, and so will many games this season. This story is really not about the 2004 season, or any returning starter for that incredible Sooner team.

The Bowling Green Falcons don't go very far on their opening possession and OU ends up with the ball on their own 40 after a punt. After few passes and a few runs the Sooners are already in the red zone and the crowd is buzzing. On trots the new true freshman running back people have been whispering about. I turn to Chance and say:
   I read an article in the school paper this week that this kid is a freak of nature. The team strength coach made him run drills in his high top shoes as soon as he unpacked his trunk of belongings. He ran two consecutive 4.4 40s and jumped 39". FREAK. 

His first run is for 3 yards to the left. He comes out of the game. Two plays later White hooks up with Mark Clayton for a touchdown, which will happen seven more times in the 2004 season. The score is 7-7 after the first quarter after an OU fumble and Bowling Green takes advantage of the short field. The crowd doesn't seem worried just yet, but you can tell nobody was expecting this.

The 2nd quarter starts and the freshman freak is back in for his 2nd career carry. He goes right, breaks one arm tackle, cuts back away from the sideline and explodes for 18 yards and taking down three Falcon defenders in the process. I look at Chance and he looks at me... not bad.  Next play he runs for a meager 3 yards to the left and fumbles out of bounds. He fumbled and Head Coach Bob Stoops doesn't seem to be a fan of that because that's the last we see of the freshman in the half. The 2nd quarter goes well for OU and the halftime score is 24-10, but this story really isn't about the final score of the game.

Halftime marks the beginning of a great tradition, the delicious foot long corn dogs at Owen Field.  The line is pretty long and we miss the first two possessions of the 2nd half. The score is still 24-10 about five minutes into the 3rd quarter. That freak freshman must be out of the Stoops doghouse because he runs over a few defenders up the middle for a healthy six, then three to the left the next play. Two plays later White tosses another TD, and is well on his way to another fantastic season in which he finishes 3rd in the Heisman race.

The extra point is no good and then the Falcons go three and out. When OU gets the ball back the freshman fumbles, but recovers it. He gets yanked quickly, but his punishment is short lived as we see him back on the field a few plays into the next OU possession. The Sooners have made it to about the 35 yard line in Bowling Green territory and the crowd is a little amped after the last play went for 29 yards through the air. The next play took the crowd to a level I hadn't heard yet in that stadium.

   First down at the 35, just outside the 35 yard line. Peterson... the freshman... CUTTING BACK... HE'S GONNA GET THERE!!! FIRST TOUCHDOWN OF HIS CAREER. ADRIAN PETERSON.

Of course in the stadium I don't hear Terry Gannon's call, I just hear: "ohhh... yaaaa... YAAAAAA" followed by fans leaping rows and hugging complete strangers. After the pandemonium settles down, I lean over to Chance and say in my Billy Madison voice: He's good.

We walked out of that stadium knowing that Adrian Peterson was special and as a freshman was the best player on the field that day. He finished runner up for the Heisman (and probably should have won), therefore he doesn't have a statue outside of the stadium in Heisman Park.  I hope he gets a statue on campus somewhere, someday, so I can show it to my kids and talk about the greatest athlete I ever saw play in person.

We expected great things in the future and we ended up seeing great things.  I would be lying to you if I were to say I "expected" what we have seen over the last eight plus years, but it sure as hell hasn't surprised me.  This 2012 football season should go down as the greatest by a running back in NFL history. I hope he breaks Dickerson's record, but even if he falls short, he still has stamped his name in the conversation with Jim Brown, Walter Payton, and Barry Sanders.

He leaves you shaking your head in disbelief, even though each incredible run is completely believable when you see that 28 is the one with the ball. It has been an absolute joy to watch.

On game day the echoes give you chills, but the images of AD on the field are the memories that last.


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