Rudolph Comfortable In HIs Own Skin

Remembering that Oklahoma State starting quarterback Mason Rudolph is over 1,000 miles away (1,079.8 miles to be exact) from home, and he is still young, just a sophomore. It would be easy to think that with all of the preseason talk about being the second best quarterback in the Big 12, the savior of the Cowboys program, and even a long-shot Heisman Trophy candidate, it may go to his head.

He says it doesn't because between his family, his teammates and friends, and his Yoda, also known as senior quarterback J.W. Walsh, none of them will let him get too heady about his situation.

"My parents and my brother are the first ones to tell me that I'm just another dude," Rudolph told me when I asked who keeps his head out of the clouds. "My brother and I are very close, so he'll be the first one to say something to me.

"I've never liked cocky people so I try to not be. My parents keep me grounded, my coaches keep me grounded, Austin Hays (sitting next to Rudolph at the time) keeps me grounded, so it's not really a problem."

When you see Rudolph with teammates it is easy to see that he is just one of the guys. Another barometer that I have always used in judging quarterbacks and where they were within the team, above teammates or standing right next to each other arm and arm, is how the offensive line feels and how determined they are to protect.

I know that it is an offensive lineman's job to protect the quarterback and if they have pride in themselves then they will do the job. Show me a quarterback that is liked and respected, a quarterback that makes sure his offensive line knows how much he appreciates them and I will show you a quarterback that gets great protection. I see that with Rudolph, and Walsh too for that matter.

I wrote that Walsh is kind of a "Yoda" for Rudolph. He is in just about every way and while it started with Rudolph's arrival in mid-year and spring of 2014, it was cemented with one little piece of advice that Walsh gave Rudolph before he left the locker room in the West End Zone to get on the plane to go to Waco for that first start of his career at Baylor last November.

"I said, 'Mason, it's the same game you've been playing your whole life, so just go play ball,'" remembered Walsh of that conversation before the team left for the airport.

"I was kind of p***** that he wasn't traveling because he was kind of there from day one and I was mad he wasn't going to be there with me for the first time," Rudolph remembered. "It was very good advice. He gives me good advice all the time."

That has included this fall camp when there have been some frustrating days as Rudolph and an improving first team offense have gone against one of the best and fastest defenses they will see all season day after day in practice. Walsh, who knows what that is like has seen more time against the second team defense. The competition is in good spirit and it is having good results.

"I want to come out here and be the best quarterback that I can be for this team each day, never take a day off, and always come to work," Rudolph said. "You know, J.W. kind of provides that in that we are always competing and always trying to make each other better. It is a good thing to know that you are the guy (starting quarterback), but it doesn't mean you aren't going to come out here and work hard each day."

Rudolph is described by head coach Mike Gundy and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich as a "gym rat" type that is always in the meeting room watching video and always looking to get better. He is comfortable with himself and honestly doesn't think about a Heisman Trophy anymore than he thinks about a sophomore slump.

"I try to focus on the film room and diving deeper into protections and coverage stuff like that," he said. "It has slowed down a little and I feel like I am a whole lot better than I was last year getting thrown in. I feel like I'm a lot better now."

The fun question for fans and maybe in the meeting room for the offensive staff is how they make the most out of Rudolph with his powerful and accurate right arm and ability to keep plays alive with his feet with the hopes of throwing the ball downfield and also play, as promised, Walsh with his ability to be s dangerous running as he is throwing.

"However they are going to do that, yes, I want to see it happen for him," Rudolph said preaching being unselfish. "It won't be my decision but I want the Cowboys to win and however we go about it then I'll be fine."

Walsh sounds similar.

"I try not to look where I am at on the field, and the reasons I stayed here is that I love it and I think this football team has a chance to be very special and I want to b e a part of it," the senior from Denton Guyer said. "It doesn't matter what it is and how it is but I want to be a part of it because I think we can be really special."

At the end of the day, all of this is not too much for Rudolph. He is the starting quarterback. He has been tested by fire in fall camp going against a stout defense. He knows he will have to share the reigns some with his friend and fellow quarterback in Walsh. It is all coming together and it may not be exactly what was envisioned, but according to Rudolph it is close.

"I had goals of what I wanted to do but I had no clue when it was going to happen or if it was going to happen, but I would say that I'm taking it day by day and it has been a blessing so far to have been a part of this program and had the success so far," Rudolph said. "I really don't pay a whole lot of attention to it. I just try to keep plugging along."

Figure of speech, because so far he has been anything but a someone that is just plugging a long.

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