I remember on a 2013 hot summer Saturday afternoon on the floor of Boone Pickens Stadium long lines of athletes in shorts and primarily Oklahoma State camp Nike dri-fit workout shirts making the participants look uniform, there was some commotion over where defensive backs were running from and then speed 40s, working with Oklahoma State's Rob Glass on their form and ability to generate their best speed.
Obviously, the Cowboys coaches were looking for the best speed. After weeks of flirtation in the recruiting process, Jenks' safety and athlete Dylan Harding had come to Stillwater prepared to be fast. The then 6-2, 180-pound Harding clocked a sub-4.5 on the stopwatch. Asked to run it again, he ran it a tick faster. Asked a third time and Harding ran it identical to the first time.
He already had offers from Arizona State, North Carolina, Texas Tech, and Oregon State, but he wanted OSU. Later that night on the way home from Stillwater, Harding had a scholarship offer from the school he wanted, and Oklahoma State had a commitment from a safety at the state's preeminent high school football power.
Harding has not disappointed since playing as a true freshman on special teams and some at safety and then following it up last season with more playing time and six tackles. Now, however after getting more playing time earlier this spring, Harding is having to call it a career with football. Problems surfacing in practice and concern led to tests that revealed spinal stenosis, a condition that occurs primarily in the neck and just below or in the lower back.
Harding used Twitter to make his announcement.
"For everyone that hasn’t seen or heard, I got diagnosed with spinal stenosis that’s causing me to leave the game I’ve played since the 2nd grade," wrote Harding. "I’ll never forget the young days of watching Bedlam games with my pops and dreaming of being a part of something that special.
"Thankfully, I got that opportunity and I’ll never forget it" he continued. "I just want to say thanks to my family, friends and people who followed this dream of mine as it turned into a reality. I want to specifically say thank you to all of the coaches and my dad who have spent countless hours with me, trying to better me as a person and a football player.
"I got to experience something I’ll never forget and (will) cherish forever. . . . I’ll forever be grateful. #GoPokes."
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the open spaces in the spine and can wreak havoc with nerves in the spine and down to the arms and legs. It is a condition that contact can make worse and can cause serious issues with the spine.
There is no definite opinion on the condition although most orthopedic and sports medicine specialists recommend not playing if you have spinal stenosis. Current Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jarvis Jones has spinal stenosis, and while as a freshman at USC, where it was discovered, he was ruled medically not to be eligible at Southern Cal. He transferred to Georgia and Georgia team doctors allowed him to play. He went through the NFL combine and more than half the teams said they would draft him with that condition, but he has played for the Steelers since 2013. Most medical professionals don't believe the risk is worth allowing an athlete to participate with the condition.
Harding is an engineering major who earned first-team All Academic Big-12 honors this past season.