Two Cowboys Heading West

Former Oklahoma State tight end Billy Bajema and punter/kicker Cole Farden came to Stillwater together as freshmen before the 2001 season, the first under new head coach Les Miles. Now that they are leaving they will go together. Bajema and Farden both secured their NFL opportunity this past weekend with the same team. The pair will join another former Cowboy, wide receiver Rashaun Woods, with the San Francisco 49ers.

."It's really kind of crazy with Billy and I because we came in to OSU as freshman and became friends and now we're going to San Francisco together and hopefully can be teammates as long as possible," said Farden of the coincidence.

The two players actually made those plans independent of each other on Sunday afternoon. Both were watching the second day of the NFL Dracft closely waiting on the phone to ring. It was Bajema that got the first call in the seventh round.

"Saturday I wasn't waiting by the phone because I didn't think I would get drafted on Saturday, but Sunday I did keep up with it," said the tight end that once played quarterback at Westmoore High School before converting to his NFL position at Oklahoma State. "I waited and watched it and it turned into a pretty long day because it seemed like no tight ends were getting picked up in the fifth or sixth rounds. Finally, I got some calls coming in from some teams that thought they might draft me and saying if they didn't draft me and I didn't get picked they would like for me to sign as a free agent. Then San Francisco called and said congratulations and that they were drafting me. It was an exciting moment and we kind of celebrated."

Farden's phone also started ringing during the final round in the draft.

"We had spoken with a lot of teams that talked about picking me up in the seventh round as maybe a late draft pick or a free agent," said Farden, who averaged 42.9 yards per punt his senior season and also had 48 of his 73 kickoffs unreturned as touchbacks. "There were teams like Cincinnati, Green Bay, Buffalo. We had quite a bit of options, but we looked at last year's stats and San Francisco in special teams was kind of near the bottom where I felt like I could come in and make an impact when I go to training camp."

Both players have been to San Francisco before but not recently. They are excited about seeing the city, but more important about making the team which is no guarantee for a seventh round selection or free agent. Bajema will have an added advantage in that he will come in and work with the NFL's overall number one selection in former Utah quarterback Alex Smith.

"I've watched him and it seems like he can turn into a great player and hopefully will," said Bajema, who had 20 receptions for 283 yards and a touchdown as a senior. "They have a new coaching staff and are getting started building up the program. It kind of reminds me when I came in at Oklahoma State. It's very exciting."

Farden will have to battle with three kickers currently on the 49ers roster. But none are as versatile as Farden, who pressed into duty can punt, obviously kickoff, and could also kick extra points and field goals.

"I had spoken with Larry McDuff, who is the special teams coordinator, and Jeff Rogers, who is the special teams assistant, and they seem like really good coaches," said Farden of his Sunday conversation. "Plus, they have Mike Nolan as the new head coach. It's going to be a neat deal, kind of like coming into OSU when we did, with a new set of coaches. They had three kickers in Baltimore and they said they may do it there in San Francisco. I want to do as many things as possible, even hold. I'm really going in to be the punter and for sure try to show them enough that I can kick off as a rookie."

Farden said one obstacle that he is working on overcoming is the different football in the NFL, which isn't quite as kicker friendly.

"I'm sure you hear it around the NFL they have these new kicking balls (brand new balls that are really hard) and you don't even hear of the NFL kickers kicking it to the end zone. I've been kicking it down inside the five and getting a few in the end zone, but if you get the ball inside the five, near the goal line that's a good kick in the NFL. It doesn't effect me on punts. In fact, it is fatter and really has more of a sweet spot."

Bajema will be at the 49ers minicamp in May. Farden is going to skip the minicamp for graduation at Oklahoma State and then head to San Francisco in mid-May to begin workouts at the Niners' facility in Santa Clara. Farden kind of speaks for both of them when he sums up the experience of draft weekend.

"All I really wanted to do was get an opportunity to get my foot in the door and hopefully go win a job."

Two Cowboys that left their heart in Stillwater, but hope to make their mark again in San Francisco.

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