From walk-on to starter: Jarvis Baxter

Not even on campus in July, juco transfer wide receiver Jarvis Baxter continues to turn heads in Norman.

It was Oklahoma’s first play from scrimmage, and wide receiver Jarvis Baxter heard the call. He knew there was a good chance the ball was coming his way.

Baxter did indeed get the ball, making a 15-yard reception. The first catch by a Sooner for the 2015 season was made by a walk-on.

Not just a walk-on, but a walk-on who two months ago wasn’t even on OU’s roster or their radar. Baxter, a top 50 junior college recruit for the 2015 class, signed with South Florida but was unable to meet its academic requirements.

He did meet the academic requirements necessary to play Division I football, just not the ones set up by USF.

Baxter needed to take 12 hours in the summer to qualify, and USF would only allow nine to count toward his required amount. So he was no longer running with the Bulls, but instead, headed to Norman because of his relationship with fellow juco transfer Dede Westbrook and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley.

“He’s quite a story,” Riley said. “Knew about him at East Carolina. Liked his film, but we ended up taking a guy a little more local. He was a little underrecruited at the time like a lot of small wide receivers.

“Talked to his coaches and knowing our receiver situation, damn right, we’re interested. It’s a minor miracle he was able to get it all done – shows how badly he wanted to be a Sooner.”

He wanted it badly enough to be an invited walk-on when he had scholarship offers come to him in late July. The theory was put in the work at OU and earn the scholarship.

Good theory, it worked. OU head coach Bob Stoops announced Monday afternoon Baxter will be put on scholarship at mid-year, another tale of a walk-on making it good.

“I didn’t know anything about being put on scholarship or anything,” Baxter said. “I just chose to walk on over schools that offered scholarships because of the tradition. The tradition is really good.”

Baxter got to know about the tradition during a recruiting visit to Norman for OU’s win against Texas A&M in 2011. Since that day, the goal has been clear – to become a Sooner.

Baxter has certainly taken a road less traveled, but after talking to Westbrook and Riley, he knew his future was in good hands.

“He helped me a lot,” Baxter said. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here. He actually talked to me, and I trusted his words. Now that I’m here, everything he told me is happening.”

Baxter finished with a team-high five receptions for 51 yards. He’s come a long way since 2011 with a dream of being a Sooner. Able to soak it all in during warmups, it’s hard for Baxter to realize this is actually happening for him.

“I pinch myself all the time,” Baxter said. “All the time I pinch myself because this is real. It really happened. I actually played a game for Oklahoma. It really happened.”

And it should be the start of a noteworthy couple of years as a Sooner.

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