Cowboy Football Ring of Honor Could Help Bridge the Gap Between Program and Former Players
STILLWATER – Oklahoma State’s Big 12 opener is this coming Saturday against West Virginia in Stillwater and other than that fact, there’s a few more that make this game special. It was announced last week Oklahoma State would be creating a football Ring of Honor and Thurman Thomas would be the first player inducted.
They Cowboys will be wearing special uniforms that honor Thomas as they’ll be the same design as the uniforms Thurman and the Pokes wore in the 1987 Sun Bowl. Oh, and as it so happens, Oklahoma State beat West Virginia in that game.
Thurman’s gonna be in Stillwater and Boone Pickens Stadium for the ceremony of hanging his No. 34 in the West End Zone. So, there’s a lot to be excited about.
Thurman finished his Oklahoma State career as a three-time All-American and the all-time rushing leader in school history with 5,001 yards and 50 touchdowns. He led the Big Eight in rushing in both 1985 and 1987 and was voted the Big Eight Offensive Player of the year each season.
He’d go on to have a stellar NFL career that earned him an induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007 and was also inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame the following year. He’s had his iconic No. 34 retired by both Oklahoma State and the Buffalo Bills and he continues to live in Buffalo, NY.
However, it came out over the summer that Thurman didn’t have the greatest relationship with the program or head coach Mike Gundy. There’s been several top-tier athletes come through the football program and they've certainly done a good job lately of reconnecting with former players.
Cowboy great Brandon Weeden is in Stillwater as often as he can be. During a normal, non-COVID football weekend, several former Cowboy standouts can been seen walking the sidelines of Boone Pickens Stadiums, including multiple that are currently in the NFL such as Mason Rudolph, Vincent Taylor and Emmanuel Ogbah.
However, go back a little further and there seems a bit of a disconnect for some.
At one time, current Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy, a former player himself that played with Thurman Thomas wanted to start a former player's association. There was even consideration to hiring Thomas to come on and serve as a director of a former player's association. For some reasons, the athletic department never chose to allocate money for that area. In fact, the O-Club, which used to have a director and a larger budget was cut back from a funding standpoint. Many other schools have a considerable budget for that type of function. Oklahoma State currently does not, and the COVID-19 pandemic and current financial stress on the athletic department probably will keep that being changed.
Thurman believes the new Ring of Honor is a great start in trying to bridge that gap.
"I think it does a lot,” Thomas said on a Zoom call on Tuesday. “Obviously, there's not going to be as many fans and they're not going to allow many players to come back. I would have guaranteed you that most of the guys that I played with and that were in my class, they were coming to this. That's how you bring people together, because I told them — once I got this, I sent an email out to all the guys that I know. For me, I could have sat back and not invited anybody. This is an opportunity to bring some of the older guys to meeting some of the younger guys.
"I would love for Dez Bryant to come back. I would love for Justin Blackmon to come back, because those guys, I never really had the opportunity or chance to meet them or know them. And there's so many of them. I see [Brandon] Weeden all the time, but I want to see a lot more of those players. So, I think when they continue to do this, you will see more and more players reach out. Like I said, I'm reaching out to as many players as a possibly can. Obviously with COVID or whatever we won't be able to have all those guys there, but this is a great thing, this is a great thing and I'm going to continue pushing forward for Oklahoma State athletics."
It's going to be exciting watching Thurman's number get hoisted in Boone Pickens Stadium, as it will be for the other Oklahoma State greats who's going to be honored in the future. Hopefully this is the start of a great period in Cowboy history where we see some of the best to ever put on the orange and black back on the sidelines in Stillwater.
Kickoff for Oklahoma State's Big 12 opener against West Virginia is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. CT and will be televised on ABC.