Lampkin Back At It After Injury

You know the old saying about walking in a man's shoes, as in you can't really understand where he is coming from unless you've walked in his shoes. Or in the case of many football injuries, tried to walk in a man's shoes. Last season, Oklahoma State true freshman Ramon Richards continued schooling and getting better at the cornerback position while filling in for injured starter Ashton Lampkin.

The Cowboys were preparing for West Virginia All-American and now recognized top NFL Draft prospect Kevin White at wide receiver and that week in practice Lampkin, who had suffered a high ankle sprain five weeks earlier against Texas Tech, suited out and the hope was he would be ready. Then on game day, no Lampkin. He told the coaches that he couldn't go.

The injury suffered earlier was worst than any of us could imagine. Only Lampkin knew how he felt when it happened.

"At that moment I really thought my ankle was dysfunctional or even twisted backwards," Lampkin described of how it felt when he went down on that pass play against Texas Tech. "It went numb and hurt at the same time.

"I didn't know what to think and I had to look as I fell to see what my ankle was looking like. Then once I saw it and that it wasn't messed up like I thought and it was just hurting, then I thought to get off the field. We had our juice going and I didn't want to mess that up so I was thinking of getting off the field as fast as I can."

Later, Lampkin realized he was dealing with an injury that may not have been as graphic visually as he thought, but was maybe worse from a playing standpoint.

"I really thought it was going to be a week injury and I really hadn't had a high ankle sprain and progressively going on it kept being the same," Lampkin explained. "It just kind of lingered on and I couldn't play to the best of my ability with it like that."

Lampkin was scratched for West Virginia and shortly after scratched for the rest of the season. I'll admit I thought he could have tried, but then again I've never walked a mile in a cornerback's cleats and covered the best receivers in college football.

Any thought of Lampkin not being true to his team and to the sport disappears when he explains his reaction to being back out on the practice field this fall. The now fourth-year junior (after receiving a medical redshirt season) has two more years to play, and his experience will help each of the next two seasons. So will his enthusiasm for playing the game.

"It's the best feeling because God is letting me be able to play football again and just be out there with my brothers," Lampkin said of playing again this spring practice. "It's indescribable."

Head coach Mike Gundy is glad to have Lampkin back.

"He is 100 percent, but he doesn't look very good," Gundy joked with Lampkin a few feet away listening. "He hasn't had a haircut lately. He's standing over there and I'm just joking with him. He's back and it's good to have him out there. He's had good practices."

Lampkin finished his shortened season with 18 tackles and an interception returned for a touchdown against UTSA. In his career, he has 46 tackles and three interceptions.

Senior and NFL prospect Kevin Peterson returns at corner for the Cowboys, and so does Lampkin's replacement in Ramon Richards, who finished last season with 42 tackles and three interceptions, numbers very similar to Lampkin's career numbers.

So how does that competition go? Peterson and Lampkin both told the media on Wednesday it is an even split with all three, including Peterson, rotating and battling for the two starting positions.

"We're a brotherhood first and foremost before anything, before competition and before anything. They know that they are my brothers," Lampkin explained of the relationship noting that Richards is like his younger brother.

"Anytime they need something they can come to me. Anytime I need something, I come to them. But they know at the same time that we're all here to compete for a job. (Ramon Richards) got to compete for his job. I got to compete for my job. (Kevin Peterson) got to compete for his job, and the guys coming in have to compete for their job.

"So the best of the best is going to play. We've got to go out there and compete every single day."

It truly is serious business and the players on the other side at wide receiver confirm that it is physical and an all-out battle on the field. Unlike last spring when there were so many newbies, players that had played very little, this spring the offense and defense are sword sharpening sword.

"I feel like our defense is pretty strong," Lampkin said. "Our offense is strong as well though. Don't get me wrong. Everybody is strong. We're strong on offense, special teams and all of that. We're just trying to build right now. We'll just continue to build on what we have, what we're going to get coming in here in the fall. Just keep on grinding. All we can do is keep on grinding and just have a great season."

Barring injuries it would appear that Oklahoma State could very well have the best corners in the conference and maybe the best third corner in the country. Remember, there is a pretty good veteran joining them to make it a strong foursome in former Indiana cornerback Michael Hunter. More steel to sharpen steel.


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