Player in Focus: Aaron Ripkowski

Fullback goes from walk-on to invaluable for Oklahoma

Aaron Ripkowski has plenty of nicknames.

Running back Alex Ross thinks of him as a Viking who loves pain, and offensive tackle Daryl Williams calls him ‘Legendary Rip.’ The entire offensive line considers him one of its own. He’s a mentor to freshman Dimitri Flowers and invaluable to Oklahoma run game.

Before all that, he was a walk-on with just one scholarship offer and only one goal.

“Just get one rep under my belt,” said Ripkowski, who thought his first rep came against Texas A&M, but he wasn’t sure of the result of the pay. “That was my initial plan, just hopefully I can get one play under my belt before I leave here.” Ripkowski grew up in Dayton, Texas – a suburb of Houston about 30 miles outside of the city.

He was a linebacker mostly in high school but played a little offensive guard. His only scholarship came from the Naval Academy.

Ripkowski didn’t grow up a Sooners’ fan but fell in love with the school when he came for a camp, where they first moved him to fullback.

He liked the new position, and he liked the coaching staff, as well.

“The coaching staff and the environment here was totally different from anywhere else I went,” he said. “I went to camps at other D1 schools, and they were kind off stand-offish, just ship-in, ship-out, just camp, get your money, but here, they really cared about making sure you had a great experience.”

The impression that Ripkowski made on the coaching staff was almost immediate.

“He’s just a physical presence,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “He started really making his mark on special teams, . . . then the more opportunities he got, the bigger the impact he started to have on the offense.”

As a freshman, Ripkowski immediately played on special teams. He earned a start and a scholarship in his sophomore year while contributing to the ‘Belldozer’ package. When Trey Millard went down with a season-ending injury last year, Ripkowski made seven starts and earned his first touchdown.

Now, he’s the first player opposing coaches mentioned. He’s the one everyone wants to watch on the weekly highlights.

“He’s always bringing that legendary boom or something that amazes us,” Oklahoma offensive tackle Daryl Williams said. “ . . . It’s amazing to see. He’s definitely a huge help to our success.”

Ripkowski, who has four carries for 11 yards and a touchdown to go with five catches for 32 yards, is also starting to find his way onto the radar of NFL scouts. At 6-foot-1, 257 solid pounds of muscle and a ruthlessness that is unmatched, he is the prototypical professional fullback. He is the hammer that leads Oklahoma, driving the nail of a 6.3-yard per carry average – one of the best in the country.

At first, Ripkowski didn’t think he’d made a difference for the Sooners – even if Stoops saw it right away.

His goals have changed slightly during the past four years. He still wants one rep, but now, he wants one at the next level.

“Everybody comes here with a dream of hopefully, initially getting reps, and if you gets some reps, you goal and your dream is to get to the next level,” Ripkowski said. “That’s a goal of mine, but we’ll see where it goes.”

Sooners Illustrated Top Stories