Way takes final stand toward significance

IRVING, Texas — For No. 11 Oklahoma, Jones is not the only Sooner ending his career where it all began. Four-year starter and senior punter Tress Way is set to boot away the final stage of his days at OU on Friday, Jan. 4, when the Sooners take on the No. 9 Aggies and Heisman-winning freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel inside Cowboys Stadium.

Like Jones, he vividly recalls his first game at OU, a 14-13 stunning loss to BYU inside JerryWorld back on Sept. 5, 2009.

"We had the returning Heisman trophy winner and we went three-and-out on the first drive, and I wasn't expecting to punt until like the second quarter," Way said. "The ball was on the 14-yard-line because we had a penalty, and I was standing on the goal line for my first punt ever and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. There's no turning back now. I gotta punt this ball.'"

With his family sitting directly behind him, Way did what he so often has at OU in booting away a 37-yarder. After that punt, Way came over to the sidelines and shared some good news with several of his young teammates.

"That first feeling of running out, being so nervous and then coming off to Ben [Habern] and Landry, and some of my friends that hadn't been on the field yet going, ‘Man, it's not that bad. It's okay. It's fun,' It was pretty crazy," Way said.

Since that day against BYU—the same day where Sam Bradford left due to a severe shoulder sprain on his throwing shoulder and Jones' days quarterbacking OU began—Way has made a habit of routinely blasting punts downfield.

In fact, many around the OU program—coaches, players and fans—consider Way as the best punter in Sooner history.

"I mean, like how cool of a statement is that," said Way of the aforementioned recognition. "You come from a place like Oklahoma where you've got all these national champions banners hanging around you, and people are going to say that I'm the best punter that ever played here."

The 6-foot-1- senior showers observers with a humble response to his OU accolades, but a quick look reveals he gets all the love for a reason.

Way is third among active FBS punters with a career punt yards total of 10,741, No. 12 nationally this season with a 43.8 average per punt and currently ranks No. 1 in OU history just ahead of Jeff Ferguson with a career punting average of 43.8 as compared to Ferguson's 42.5.

The jaw-droppers go on. Over his career, Way punts have resulted in 53 fair catches by the opposition and on 88 occasions Way has pinned opponents inside their own 20-yard-line.

Taken another way, Way has forced at least one fair catch per game and pinned opposition inside their own 20-yard-line an average of 1.7 times per game every time he has stepped out onto the field donning Crimson and Cream. Ten times this season alone Way has delivered on punts of 50 yards or more.

And only twice in his career has a Way punt been blocked.

Still, in harmony with his team's starting quarterback in Jones, perhaps Way's biggest contribution to the OU family has been his strong faith in God and desire to give back to the greater Oklahoma City community.

His girlfriend, senior left fielder on OU's softball team Brianna Turang, wanted to do something for the less fortunate throughout the holiday season. In turn, Turang and Way founded Christmas 127 and raised enough money to sponsor 50 underprivileged kids—orphans and some kids that had been abused—and give these children a Christmas.

"We were told that these kids weren't going to have anything to look forward to on Christmas. Man, that just made us want to spoil them even more. So we started going from like 20-dollar Lego sets to 50-dollar Lego sets. We bought iPod touches and all that stuff," Way said.

Upon delivering the gifts, Way was able to catch up with one of the elementary school teachers.

"She just said, ‘It's so cool in a world that is so dark where people are trying to make it even darker that athletes are still willing to help us out. They're still willing to give us a reason to be happy and these kids will have something under the tree.'

"While I'm stationed here in Norman, Okla., I feel like my obligation and my duty is to provide the peace and joy and just do something around here in hopes it gets their mind off of that stuff," Way said.

As noted before, Way will leave OU with a handful of records. He jokes that he has shared a lot of his secrets, but not quite all of them with the younger punters.

"My parents raised me to be an unselfish player, a team player, but I feel like once you're done with your playing career you can look back and be a little selfish about it," Way said. "Records are made to be broken, but I would definitely like for mine to stay for 50, 60 years. That would be cool."

Along with his faith, the 22-year-old has been guided along throughout his playing career by a certain saying.

"The one quote that I heard that really ties into a mindset coming into a place like this is are you going to be successful, or are you going to be significant? Are you going to be something that people will always remember, or are you just going to be someone that helped get some wins along the way?" Way said.

So which is it, Tress? Do you define your career as successful or significant?

"I hope, and that's the best answer I can give. That's not my decision. That's my coaches', that's my teammates' [decision], and I just hope and I just pray that I was significant," Way said. "You just never know what kind of impact you've had on other people's lives. I can only hope I was significant, but that's not my call."

Leave your heart at ease, Tress. The jury has spoken. Few at Oklahoma have ever been quite so "significant."

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