Week 1 of the college football season is a wild time across the country for obvious reasons.
It’s the return of one of our greatest passions as a nation and thus a celebration of the sport with, of course, harsh overreactions to first game results.
Champions are proclaimed, pretenders are identified, Heisman contenders are established.
Amidst all the craziness it can sometimes get lost just how significant the day was for individual players for a myriad of reasons. That could be a return from injury, a return from an opt-out or even just a debut in a new place after a transfer.
Oklahoma has its fair share of all those types of players who made anticipated returns, or debuts, at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
As high profile as any was the return of redshirt junior running back Kennedy Brooks, who rejoined the Sooners after opting out of the 2020 season.
“I missed it, man,” Brooks said this week. “It was pretty fun being out there and playing the game I love, being out there playing with my teammates. It was good. I felt good. Obviously, we've got a lot to work on, but it's been fun being out there.”
Junior tight end/h-back Austin Stogner made his return from a scary injury last season that saw him miss significant time. Similar to Brooks, Stogner was just happy to see the field again.
“Yeah it was awesome,” Stogner said. “It was great to be back out there. It was a long time coming, a long road. I’m just grateful. Thank God I’m able to be out there again and play the ball I want to play.”
As well as players making their returns to the team, multiple newcomers made their debut with Oklahoma after transferring in from another program.
For those players, despite the stadium not being full capacity, it was an incredibly special moment as well.
“That was an awesome moment for me to get out there and go play in front of the palace,” redshirt senior offensive lineman Robert Congel said of his debut in Norman after coming over from Arizona this offseason.
“You dream about that kind of stuff.”
“Oh yeah, I had a lot of fun actually,” sophomore Tennessee transfer defensive back Key Lawrence said. “Man, I think I had way too much fun, if I was to be honest. I just love going out there and playing with my guys, man. As a defensive unit, we have so much belief in one another, we just, like, it’s just electrifying, if I was to put it into words and like, explain it. It’s just electrifying.
“I just love playing with my teammates back there man, it's amazing.”
While analysts and fans of the sport break down the Week 1 results and overanalyze and overreact to one game, it can get lost how long the winding road to that moment can be for so many of the players.
For outsiders, one season rolls into another. But for guys like Brooks, Stogner, Congel and Lawrence, the work to get that moment was arduous and will never be taken for granted.
“I was having more fun out there,” Brooks said. “I was just appreciating the moment, appreciating the reps and enjoying the time with my teammates. That's all. I'm a whole different player from the last time I was on the field, but right now, I'm just loving the game.”
The Sooners will take the home gridiron again this weekend, this time in front of a packed house, on Saturday night at 6 p.m. against Western Carolina.
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