Oklahoma right tackle Josiah St. John ran out on to the field at Neyland Stadium last Saturday, looked up at the capacity crowd of more than 100,000 screaming fans and took a moment to realize just how fan he’d come to be in this moment.
Not many people from his hometown of Toronto get this chance, and even fewer get to play the role he is playing with one of the top football programs in the country.
“It’s crazy. It really was crazy,” St. John said. “. . . I consider myself blessed.”
The path to the starting right tackle during the biggest game of the non-conference season for Oklahoma didn’t come without its work. He’s still putting in work.
The right tackle turned left tackle turned back into a right tackle is still working on the transition back to his natural side. In the spring, St. John was ready to be the next starting left tackle at Oklahoma. But after freshman Orlando Brown had such a great preseason camp, the coaching staff approached him with the idea that he move back to right tackle, where the footwork and the thought process completely switches.
He obliged, although he probably couldn’t have said no. He made the move for the betterment of Oklahoma.
“I’m really all for it,” said St. John, who is the first Canadian-born player to see action with Oklahoma. “Anything that helps the team. It’s my last year, and I’m not really in to self. I just want to win. That’s really what it is. They talked to me about it and said this was our best chance to win, and I went with it.”
The switch hasn’t been the easiest, and it’s still an ongoing process.
After being passed up for the start in the season opener by true freshman Dru Samia, St. John put in extra work – focusing on his sets, his assignments, not having busts and taking a better mental approach into practice.
“Mentality is when you’re tired in practice going through repetition; it’s making sure you go all out with everything you have,” said St. John, who credited working with Dalton Rodriguez for helping him improve before the game against Tennessee. “That’s really what the mentality is for me.”
The big-time game action has accelerated the process: Forcing him to play better in a tense situation. The switch back to right tackle isn’t complete, yet.
It might never be fully complete.
There are blocks that he made on the left side that are much tougher on the right side. He takes an extra second at the line of scrimmage to flip the play in his head from what he focused on during preseason camp.
It was difficult for St. John at first. Now, he’s settled in at right tackle.
“Everything has to flip in your head,” St. John said. “Even the calls had to flip in my head. I’m thinking way more than I usually have to before plays to make sure I reverse everything in my head. It was a challenge at first. Just like everything else, I have to do what’s best for the team.”