Kye Staley Is A Pleasant Surprise For Cowboys

STILLWATER - The Oklahoma State football team hit the halfway point of spring ball when it practiced under cloudy skies and in chilly conditions on Monday. The session was held on the practice fields adjacent to Gallagher-Iba Arena and the Cowboys were dressed in full pads.

"We started out a little slow, but as practice continued I thought we had a good day," head coach Mike Gundy said. "We had a number of young players do well.

"Chris Dinkins made a few plays. Hubert Anyiam made a few plays and J.W. Walsh made some plays at quarterback. Clint Chelf continues to improve, and I thought that we got some good play out of Caleb Lavey and the second group of offensive linemen."

Gundy said the team continues to progress and get better and needs to keep working hard, stay healthy and improve every practice. He also summarized what he is looking for from the players during the spring.

"A good attitude, good body language, effort," Gundy said. "We want to force turnovers, protect the ball and eliminate missed assignments."

One other aspect of practice that has been consistent and kept high on Monday was the physical play. This group of Cowboys doesn't seem to be shy about hitting each other. It is evident in drills as well as full team work such as inside drill, seven-on-seven, or full team periods.

The one-on-one work between offensive and defensive linemen is electric with that competitive fire that coaches are seeking. It is as good as has been seen around Oklahoma State football.

A couple of past former players in wide receiver Mel Campbell and offensive tackle Jody Tillman were at practice Monday.

Campbell and Tillman played back in the late 1970s and early '80s for Jimmy Johnson. The duo were impressed with what they saw. Tillman, a native of Fairfax, Okla. and a Native American was really interested in meeting and checking out redshirt freshman defensive tackle Christian Littlehead of Tahlequah Sequoyah. Tillman was impressed with Littlehead and the line play overall. The two veteran Cowboys spent some time talking Gundy. Tillman also had his daughter Corey with him.

It was also recent former players day as several recent Cowboys were at the practice, including Seattle Seahawks first-round draft choice and starting left tackle from last season Russell Okung. Okung seemed to really enjoy himself and spent time with former teammates like Swanson Miller, Shane Jarka, Orie Lemon, and Lucien Antoine.

Okung really looks good and said his ankle which gave him problems last season in Seattle is coming back to full health. Okung really looks good and what a great guy.

Everybody is always wanting to know what the surprises are in spring football. Have Christian Littlehead and Anthony Rogers performed well enough to be considered surprises at defensive tackle? How have Caleb Lavey, Tyler Johnson, LeRon Furr, Chris Dinkins, and Kris Catlin done at linebacker, good enough to be considered spring surprises?

Well, here is a surprise. Kye Staley is back on the field and really impressing the head coach. Although Gundy is hesitant to talk about Staley because he is so hopeful that his progress and performance continue to climb.

"I hate to even mention Kye Staley, but I'm really encouraged by what he's done," said Gundy. "I hope that he can continue to stay healthy. His attitude has been outstanding and he has been productive in the practices.

"We all have a strong belief in him, but I don't know if any of us really believed he could do it. If he does, then he'll play a role as a third-team guy, get some carries, catch the football, and get to do some things."

It was August 2009 and Staley, the former high school player of the year in Oklahoma, was running out of the end zone in a scrimmage when he made a cut at the same time contact was made and his knee, in an awkward position, suffered major damage. He tore every major ligament and even had nerve damage.

Staley was screaming in pain and likely because of the knowledge of what had just happened to him. In the best shape of his life, Staley was poised to really have a successful season.

Following surgery, Staley was jogging by the end of the season and throughout the spring of 2010 working toward a return. The next August, Staley tried to come back, even moving to linebacker, but it wasn't working.

"I had decided to give up football and I didn't feel it was for me anymore," said Staley of his decision last August. "I ended up regretting it.

"I was a big OSU fan so I stayed witht he team. I'm all about team, you know. Once the season got over I asked Coach Gundy if I could come back in and he said I could. I worked my butt off and I'm out here now trying to progress and get into the season."

He is more than progressing. As Gundy mentioned, Staley is being productive and is looking good, showing glimpses of that All-State explosive offensive threat that led Guthrie to the state championship.

In that 2008 season, Staley, a running quarterback rushed for 1,380 yards and 28 touchdowns in leading the Blue Jays to the Class 5A crown. He was built to play tailback and now after starting this comeback as a fullback he is back at tailback.

"We have some good prospects at that fullback spot with David Paulsen, and Tracy Moore is doing some of that," said Gundy. "We've got some guys that give us something there, but we really need to dievelop a third-team tailback."

"I feel way more confident than I did in the beginning," explained Staley on how his performance has gone this spring. "When I first came back from the injury I was way more conscious of my knee, and now it's like there is no knee injury and I am free to do what I do."

It didn't happen without a lot of work. Staley has never stopped on doing whatever associate athletic director/coordinator of strength and conditioning Rob Glass suggested. Staley has no problem with hard work especially when it might get him back to playing and contributing in the game he loves.

"Since I was little I have always been a hard worker and I don't make excuses. I don't take anything for granted, and I know, like you said, it was a tough injury," said Staley. "I'm just blessed to be back. I'm just happy to be walking again. The doctor said I would never be able to do it (play football). I'm just glad I'm able to do it.

"I feel great, no pain in my knee, and no pain in my ankles," continued Staley. "I'm 100 percent back. I honestly think it took me more than a year.

"I think when I quit I rushed into my decision. I had talked to my uncle and he had said (to me) that maybe you rushed into it too fast. I thought I did and I prayed a lot and talked to my uncle and my mother a lot. I feel confident in myself again and I have the support of my teammates and coaches."

Staley, who is now 5-10 and a rock-solid 213 pounds, is so eager to get on the field that he thinks about special teams, but with the move to running back he is not as available. He's done some exploring the idea looking for special teams coordinator Joe DeForest, who actually recruited him out of Guthrie High School.

"He's hiding from me," siad Staley. "I'll do it, anything to get on the field, but I think he knows that and he's hiding from me right now."

The good thing is that Staley is no longer hidden, his hard work has put him in full view of Gundy, offensive coordinator Todd Monken, new running backs coach Jemal Singleton, and the entire coaching staff and all of his teammates.

It's a good thing, and maybe a little surprise, Kye Staley is back.

The Cowboys practice again Wednesday and with Big 12 football officials scheduled to be at the practice you would guess there might be some extensive scrimmage work. The Orange-White spring game is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, April 16, in Boone Pickens Stadium.


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