NORMAN – There was nothing Matthew Romar could do – literally nothing. Since the second day of preseason camp, when Romar took a hit to the head while the Oklahoma Sooners were still not in full pads, the defensive tackle had been in concussion protocol.
He used a large dark sheet to block his window from the sunlight, to which he was sensitive. Romar couldn’t condition or even really watch much film. He couldn’t pass the concussion protocol, and it was frustrating because he thought he was well enough to play.
He finally got the approval call that he could play Thursday night just hours before the Oklahoma Sooners season opener against Houston.
“I was worried about it,” Romar said. “I was nervous. I was nervous for a whole month because I was out. I went down the second day of camp, and I really didn't get back until last week. I was worried the whole time.”
Romar didn’t make the start at defensive tackle in the opener but could see even more action this weekend as he consistently runs winds sprints after practice to get back into condition. Oklahoma could use him. It’s not that Jordan Wade didn’t fill in admirably. In fact, Wade played significantly well – enough to earn him even more playing time in the rotation.
For a long time, Romar has been looked upon as a quiet leader for the Sooners. He’s a player that rarely speaks on the field but makes an impact with his plays. With personal fouls, missed tackles and blown coverages, Oklahoma’s defense appeared to be lacking a strong leader through the first two quarters against Houston, when the Cougars took a lead into halftime.
Romar might not be a captain, but he’s a constant leadership force. And now, he’s just about back in a position where he can contribute.
“You've got to round up the troops, let them know that the season isn't over,” Romar said. “It's only the first game and we've got a long, long road ahead of us. We've just got to bounce back and play the way we should be playing.”
Wade and Romar make up the core of what might be Oklahoma’s strongest defensive unit. Matt Dimon, Charles Walker, Austin Roberts and Neville Gallimore, who Mike Stoops said has been impressively coming on, give the Sooners strong rotation.
“We consider them all first and second line of defense,” Stoops said. “To me, they’re all interchangeable guys. We can alternate who starts, maybe. Some may be a little more productive than others. . . . We’re starting to gain a really solid rotation up front.”
This August was the first time Romar had suffered a concussion in his career. He didn’t know how it happened, and he just remembers waking up in the hospital, where he had to stay overnight for precautions.
The time off made preseason camp difficult, but that’s all behind Romar now.
“It was tough, especially when everybody was counting on me. Not being able to be out there, it was a hard thing to do,” Romar said. “I just had to sit out and wait my time for me to come back.”