Sterns took step forward this year for No. 13 Oklahoma State

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) Coming into his senior season, Oklahoma State safety Jordan Sterns made a concerted effort to become a better player, both on the field and in the locker room. His hard work paid off, with an outstanding year that resulted in All-Big 12 honors.

Sterns, who led the Cowboys with 108 tackles last season as a junior, felt like he had another step to take in his performance, and he made it happen.

''This offseason, I worked probably harder than I ever had, just because I wanted to go out this year with a bang,'' he said. ''Just working out, even when I didn't feel like it, just doing little things, stretching a little more - in the cold weather, when I didn't want to be out there, just forcing myself to do it. Ultimately, I think that's what led to my success this year.''

Now Sterns is preparing for his final collegiate game, when No. 13 Oklahoma State takes on No. 11 Colorado in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29.

Sterns was dominant for the Cowboys (9-3, 7-2) this season, leading the team in tackles again with 96, including five for a loss, along with three interceptions, matching cornerback Ramon Richards for the team lead. One of his picks was in the end zone on the final play to clinch the Cowboys' 43-37 win over Kansas State on Nov. 5.

He also made a point to improve his presence in the locker room, becoming a more prominent leader.

''Basically, I just wasn't happy with how I was off the field,'' Sterns said. ''I wasn't taking it as serious as I could have. I wanted to win, but I wasn't being a vocal leader. I wasn't getting on guys even when I thought they were doing something wrong, I was just being passive. I kind of took a look in the mirror and was like, `I need to step up. My coaches respect me, my teammates respect me, I think I could be a little more successful - that's something I can do.'''

Richards, a junior, said Sterns made a huge contribution in leadership this year.

''Jordan has had more impact on me than anybody since I've been here at Oklahoma State,'' said Richards, who was fourth on the team with 60 tackles. ''He's been a guy who's led by example. He doesn't talk the most, but when he does talk, it's very impactful. If he makes a mistake, he owns up to it. He's just a great leader.''

The OSU coaches recognize the effort Sterns has put in.

''He comes in every day, he's just a ballplayer,'' defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said. ''He's always wanted to be good, always has brought an intensity to our room that you've got to have. I wish there was a lot more like him.''

Head coach Mike Gundy marveled at the way Sterns seems to relish the physical contact necessary at his position.

''I think his demeanor, he's somewhat old-school in his willingness to strike the other team,'' Gundy said. ''It goes against human nature to want to collide with another human body and I don't really think he gives a second thought about it. He brings a little bit of toughness to our program, especially our defense.''

Sterns' final collegiate game is in San Antonio, close to his hometown of Cibolo, Texas.

''Just being able to go home and play in front of everybody I love, I've played in that stadium two or three times, so I'm familiar with it, I'm just excited,'' said Sterns, who has secured 26 tickets so far for family and friends. ''I think it's going to be a great game.''

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