When recapping the 2016 NFL Draft for Oklahoma, it doesn’t start with the four players chosen during the three-day event in Chicago.
Instead, it was about linebacker Eric Striker showing one more time why he is universally loved by coaches, teammates and fans with one final impassioned speech before heading to the next level.
Striker, a three-year starter for the Sooners, was expected to be selected in the mid-to-late rounds of the NFL Draft. But as name after name was called, Striker was left waiting for a phone call that simply did not come.
ESPN had cameras at Striker’s watch party event where Striker gave one final emotional speech in front of family and friends filled with tears, inspiration and one final reminder of why he was OU’s heart and soul defensively for the 2015 season.
Striker seemed to come to grips with the fact he wasn’t going to be drafted and opted to reflect on the positives. The positive of a stellar four years in Norman as an undersized outside linebacker who was a terror coming off the edge.
The positive of the fact that just because he wasn’t drafted obviously didn’t mean his journey had reached its conclusion.
And it won’t be. Just minutes after the draft concluded, representatives for Striker let the world know he had been signed as undrafted free agent by the Buffalo Bills.
Despite his infectious personality, Striker remains absent from any kind of social media. The only way to get into his head was by hearing him speak during those 90 seconds when he was full of tears and hope for what’s to come next.
Striker had an outstanding career with the Sooners, starting every single game the last three seasons. He totaled 191 tackles with 23 sacks and 46.5 tackles for loss and recovered four fumbles.
As tough as it is to admit, it did make sense why he didn’t hear his name uttered in those seven rounds. It had nothing to do with heart. It had nothing to do with production. It had nothing to do with character issues.
Bottom line? Striker, at just under 6-foot tall and around 215 pounds, is a linebacker who plays the game with the mentality and ferocity of a defensive end but actually has the body of a safety.
The journey is not over for Striker, who will indeed get that chance to show what he can do in Buffalo, but it also made sense if you’re not wearing crimson-colored glasses as to why his name never came up on draft weekend.
A native of Tampa from Seffner (Fla.) Armwood, Striker knew he wanted to be a Sooner. After his four years in Norman, recruits are all talking about becoming the next Striker – that’s the type of impact he had on the field.
The impact he had off the field, however, might actually outweigh that. Striker was one of the team’s spokesmen when the racial chant went viral featuring a former fraternity at OU last spring.
It was Striker who was interviewed by CNN, and it was Striker who spoke so eloquently in the days, weeks and months ahead of promoting positive change.
As serious and intense and social conscious as Striker could be, he provided the manic energy needed to lead the defense and help the Sooners reach the four-team college football playoff for the first time.
Nobody quite knew what to expect when Striker came to Norman as a part of the 2012 class. He made his mark, no doubt about that. Now he’ll try to do the same in Buffalo.
The Sooners had four players selected over the weekend with Sterling Shepard (second round, No. 40), Charles Tapper (fourth, No. 101), Zack Sanchez (fifth, No. 141) and Devante Bond (sixth, No. 183). OU has had at least four players selected in every draft since 2008.