Stephenson Returns With Renewed Focus

Sooner left tackle Donald Stephenson could have been quite a bit of an antidote for a poor offensive line in 2009, but off-the-field issues prevented him from making any kind of impact.

After playing in a reserve role on the offensive line for eight games the year before, Stephenson sat out all of last year on academic suspension.

So, coming back with a renewed focus there has certainly been a point of emphasis for the 6-foot-6, 309 lb. junior lineman from Blue Springs, Mo.

"Right yeah, that was my main focus during the offseason," Stephenson said. "I mean, you know, sometimes you get in positions you don't want to be in, and you just have to man up and get things back on the path you want it to be in."

He has.

"It turned out pretty good for me," Stephenson said.

This time around he's starting--something he most definitely would have done last year had he taken care of business--and he's excelling not only as a member of the offensive line but protecting quarterback Landry Jones' back side.

"That's probably the most, second to quarterback, probably the most important on the field and I know that," Stephenson said. "That's why I put a lot of work in, you know, during the offseason. Gaining Landry's trust was another big thing for me because I know he has to be out there to trust me. I put a lot of work in to do that, and it paid off for me."

Stephenson said the one thing that was critical in getting to this point in earning a starting position and gaining faith of not just Jones but also the rest of the team was consistent preparation and dedication day-in and day-out.

"The only reason that happened was because the work I put in the offseason," Stephenson said. "And that's kind of where I've tried to gain my trust for this team back. I had to put a lot of work to do it. It took a lot of work to gain the coaches' trust and gain my teammates' trust, and I felt like I did it, so I wasn't really surprised, but without gaining that trust, I knew the job wouldn't be mine."

Something else that's been very important is adhering to the cliche phrase, "Practice like you play."

"I guess adjusting from being a practice player to being a game player just like Coach Wilson said and learning how to practice for the game instead of just practice [was big]," Stephenson said. "I got in the mode of doing that because I've been here so long without playing. But that was my biggest challenge is practicing for the game instead of, you know, just practicing like I'm used to doing."

And to this point in 2010, it has paid off, as Stephenson looks like a changed player this year.

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