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Column: What Oklahoma LB Danny Stutsman Really Wanted Was No Regrets

Stutsman' father tells AllSooners his draft grade was “more than favorable” but he didn't want to look back one day and wish he had stayed one more year in college.

Oklahoma linebacker Danny Stutsman wasn’t entirely sure what he wanted.

But he knew what he didn’t want.


The Sooners’ junior All-American had made up his mind to leave college football and declare himself for the 2024 NFL Draft. He even met with OU head coach Brent Venables to let him know.

But then, a conversation with his dad swayed him back to playing for Oklahoma next year.

“Danny’s gonna take on whatever challenge,” Steve Stutsman told AllSooners on Monday afternoon in a telephone interview. “You know, when we talked and we had discussions, it's just the fact that, you know, when you do sign on the dotted line with an agency, when you're in the NFL next year and you're like, ‘Oh man’ … of course you're going to keep up with OU and see what they're doing, but you just don’t want to have any regrets – “Man, I wish I could go back. I wish, I wish, I wish.’

“With this decision, there is no, 'I wish.' It's done. It's going to be finished. That chapter in your life will be complete. And then the next chapter will be the NFL. So we all have regrets in life, and Danny won't have any regrets with that decision.”

Steve Stutsman said his son “had all the information” from their representing agency as well as from the NFL’s College Advisory Committee.

But ultimately, he decided he wanted to run it back with his OU teammates and coaches one last time.

“He knows he can play in the NFL,” Steve Stutsman said. “He wasn't doubting his abilities, I think in the end he just didn't want to leave his teammates. He felt like he had some more to give Oklahoma and the fans and coaching staff. At the end of the day, he just took it on his heart, so he's made that decision to go with heart. And I think it's a great decision.”

News that leaked out last week that Stutsman had informed Venables he intended to declare for the NFL Draft wasn't inaccurate, but it was premature. That's how he thought he felt at the time. But he changed his mind.

“Well, he had a discussion with coach and the staff, ‘Hey coach, you know, I'm letting you know my intentions are to leave,’ ” Steve Stutsman said. “But that's why there was never no official-official statement made. He was still gathering all the information. But he wanted to let them know that he was – that was his intention.

“I don't know how the information came out because that was more probably a private conversation. But who knows, somebody sees him going into an office – it doesn't matter. You know, it wasn't inaccurate. It just, nothing was made official.”

Steve Stutsman said he and his son talked several times and exchanged information.

“Just reaching out to some contacts I have in the NFL and getting accurate information and getting feedback from the university, you know, your draft grade,” Steve Stutsman said. “Also, you know, with the NFL agencies, helping him navigate that. But ultimately, it was his decision. Like I said, he was given all the information and the right information to make a solid decision. And at the end of the day, you know, it came down to what he felt his heart was, and he thought he'd come back – it was definitely was coming back and playing for OU.”

He said his son’s draft evaluation was “more than favorable.”

NFL teams don’t scout underclassmen until they formally forego their remaining college eligibility and turn pro. Steve Stutsman said the NFL’s College Advisory Board is a “sampling of about eight teams” who return what amounts to a cursory evaluation, which breaks down into five general categories: potential first-round pick, potential second-round pick, potential third-round pick, no potential for the first three rounds or no draft potential at all.

“And those aren't doing a deep dive,” he said. “I mean, I had to go and do a deep dive. I got some very good contacts. We got a lot of information from the agency we were with, what we're looking into, so we took it from all angles. And if you combine what I looked at and what he was getting from the advisory board – more than favorable. So that wasn't that wasn't an issue at all.”

Stutsman’s promotional video he ran with his Twitter announcement was actually shot by OU's digital media team several weeks back, Steve Stutsman said, in anticipation of being named a finalist or semifinalist for the Butkus Award. But when that didn’t come to fruition, Stutsman decided to recycle some elements of that video – featuring interactions with original Butkus winner Brian Bosworth and even recreating Bosworth’s famous white Corvette – for Monday’s announcement.

“Danny just thought what a way to use it and get all your fans excited that he's coming back,” his dad said. “So I thought that was pretty cool.”

Steve said his son isn’t motivated by being Oklahoma’s next Butkus winner – he would be the school’s fifth after Bosworth (two), Rocky Calmus and Teddy Lehman – but suggested there was some disappointment by the snub.

“You know, he never took an official visit to Oklahoma because of COVID,” he said. “He was choosing to leave, if he was going to leave, without getting a senior farewell. He’s already a senior in college right now, academically. Was he disappointed (with) some of those? But that's not what motivates him. What motivates him is playing the game that he loves and playing for his teammates, his family, his university. So those are just an aftermath of what someone does on the field. And, you know, hopefully you'll get to – if that's what it is, then that's what it is. But that's not what motivates him.”