It has been more than six weeks since a racial chant went viral at Oklahoma. Since then, Sooners players and coaches have talked about how it nearly tore the team apart, but it might result in bringing them closer together than ever before.
It also laid the foundation for the leadership for OU’s team in 2015, particularly on defense. Most suspected defensive lineman Charles Tapper and linebacker Eric Striker to be those guys. Their actions justified those sentiments.
“I’ve known Eric pretty well being that I get to see him every day,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “Again, I would be careful to judge anybody on their low point and their emotions when it comes to sensitivity they may or may not be to racist comments directed at his race.
“In the end, Eric, I’ve always known to be an emotional player. He plays that way. He’s a person. Obviously, that’s his personality and it’s also something that makes him such a leader and such a character because he expresses so much emotion in everything he does.”
Striker became the team’s spokesperson nationally, highlighted by acquitting himself very well in a live interview on CNN just 24 hours after the video went viral.
The message sent by Striker and Tapper meant a lot to the team, but it also meant a lot to the coaches as it gave them a true indication of who are going to be those guys in the trenches.
“It did,” said defensive line coach Diron Reynolds about learning a lot about Tapper. “You just kind of sit back and just kind of watch guys, just come up around and form to him. You see who has command of the trip, and that’s good. I think he’s a good hand.”
Reynolds, at the time, had been on the campus for less than a month when the incident took place that resulted in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity being disbanded from the university and the two kids featured prominently in the video being expelled from OU.
“It was different,” Reynolds said. “It’s the world. This is these guys’ community. One thing I took from it – I’m just glad to see them step up. This is your microcosm of your society. If you don’t take command of it, what are you going to when stuff really goes on in the real world? I was glad to see them step up and have a voice and do it the right way.”