SENIOR DAY: Schmidt says this class was special

Oklahoma Strength and Conditioning Coordinator Jerry Schmidt talks about what this year's senior class has done during their tenure in Norman. Derrick Strait (pictured left) and 13 other seniors, who will play their final game at Owen Field on Saturday, will be honored in a pre-game ceremony. Kick-off for Oklahoma's home finale against Baylor is set for 1:30 p.m. (AP Photo/Tony Guiterrez)

NORMAN, Okla. — Fourteen great seniors will play their last game at the Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium Saturday against Baylor.

OU Strength and Conditioning Head Coach Jerry Schmidt has been with each player every step of the way, and probably nobody on the team knows each player as well as Schmidt does. He had worked their fannies off through each off-season program and the players have learned to love him and hate him at different times. Schmidt is also the motivator during the season, finding ways to get the best out of each player in and out of his weight room.

Schmidt sat down recently with to talk about this outstanding senior class in our Two Minute Drill.

JH: Wouldn't you say that you know this great senior class as well as any other coach on campus?

JS: "The seniors that are finishing up here are very special to me. Guys like Derrick Strait, Renaldo Works, Kory Klein ... I can go on down the line about guys that I can remember their first day on campus. Guys like Lance Donley came in with great work habits and we were just starting to build the program and he took right to it. They took it with both hands and whatever we said they were going to do it. That is why they are so successful, because they never ask questions. They never asked what the blueprint was, they just went out and executed it and that is the way they were from day one and the reason why they are so successful right now."

JH: In every show that I have ever had with you somehow you always talk about Kory Klein. Hasn't he been a tremendous leader for you?

JS: "That is not just out here on the field. Here is a guy that is at every practice and every game and who is really durable. That kind of rubs off the rest of your team, because they see a guy that has been here since day one and he has never missed anything that we have done. A guy like Kory has set a foundation for your program and not only in the off-season. During two-a-days when it is hot this guy is always there and always there for the underclassmen. They look at him and he is always going to practice hard and that is the way the whole class is. It is kind of a blue collar senior class that took in what all the coaches, and not just what Coach (Bob) Stoops wanted them to do, but they helped Coach Stoops build the program."

JH: Then you have two guys in the secondary like Brandon Everage and Derrick Strait, who may have played in more big games and made more big plays than any other players in OU history?

JS: "Those guys were also there at the very beginning. It was just the way they go out and compete. Derrick Strait is up for a lot of awards. Here is a guy that was nicked up during two-a-days and wasn't fully healthy, but said, hey, I am hurt, but I am a captain and part of this program and I am going to practice no matter what. It is hard to get Derrick out no matter what and that is a reflection on how competitive he is. Everage is the exact same way, and he has had to overcome so many major injuries and yet has remained a tremendous force for us."

JH: Darren Stephens has never played at OU, but he has always tried hard on the scout team and has really been a solid team player for you hasn't he?

JS: "Darren is a classic example of a guy that knows his role. He knew what he had to do and where he could contribute and help out this football team, and he has done that. He has never said a negative thing about it, and in fact, he has good chemistry and fits in well with the football team. Darren works hard every day at practice and every day in the off-season."

JH: You have had two guys go through major rehabilitation projects and one may win the Heisman Trophy and one has never earned back his starting job, but both mean a great deal to you don't they?

JS: "Michael Thompson started for us as a freshman and we won a National Championship with him at corner. Then he has a terrible accident, but fights back from it and eventually gets back on the field. I remember testing him right after he had been released by the doctor to resume practice and how it fired up the whole team and coaching staff. When he got on the bench press it was one of the greatest days of this program. The chemistry and the toughness that he showed rubbed off on the team and he has accepted his role on the team. Then, in Jason White, you know how tough he is and that is no secret to anybody at this point. It is one thing to have an ACL injury and come back and fight through it, but then to have a second one and shortly after that injury he is back in the weight room with everybody looking at him in disbelief. To be able to handle that mentally is a lot for a person to handle, but Jason had goals in mind and he wasn't going to let anything stand in his way. I think this has rubbed off on his offense, because he is just a winner and that is pure and simple.

JH: Teddy Lehman was a physical freak coming out of high school and now he is even more of a physical freak isn't he?

JS: "What can you say about Teddy? During our testing everybody will stop what they are doing and watch him run this 4.4 forty. That is very special for a man his size. I have always had him at 4.4 every time he has run. I have always said that Teddy can get out of bed and run a 4.4 without warming up, and we are always laughing about that. Here is a guy who had great tools coming in, but just kept working to improve those to become the best player he could be. He just took that defense, along with Derrick (Strait) and 'Book' (Brandon Everage) and those guys and made a tough, relentless defense and team. The team always seems to rally around those guys."

JH: What are your thoughts on Pasha Jackson?

JS: "Pasha has really come a long ways. He and Lance (Mitchell) were junior college guys that fit in well and they were great chemistry guys. They have great toughness, too, and they have improved that whole linebacker corps. Pasha is always upbeat and a good chemistry guy."

JH: Lance Donley is another great team player?

JS: "Yeah, I can't say enough about Lance. I remember the first day he was on campus and he would work his butt off on the stadium steps when it was 105 degrees in the middle of the summer like he was born to do it. Or he would be down at the Duck Pond competing with the upper classmtn, and no matter how tired he was he wouldn't quit. He is one of the backbones of this program. He has never questioned one thing that we asked him to do. He has been the ultimate guy to say that 'We are OU and here is how we do things' and then he goes out and does those things and makes this a better football program."

JH: How about Matt McCoy?

JS: "Matt is going to be a great success at anything that he gets into, because he is going to figure out a way to be a factor. He is not the fastest guy on our team or the strongest, but he figured out a way to hang with our best athletes. We run our shuttle runs right out here on this artificial turf and I remember him as a junior selling out doing his part to keep up with the rest of the guys who were running 4.4. Somehow he would keep up with those guys and it would always amaze us. Matt is always in great shape, always showing great leadership. And again, just like Lance he is always willing to do whatever is best for the program."

JH: "The seniors say it will be an emotional day for them when they see you for the last time on Owen Field on Saturday. How emotional is it going to be for you?

JS: "Yeah, it is going to be an emotional day to see those guys walk out on that field for the last time with their families wearing the Sooner uniform. I remember the first day that all those guys walked on campus and I think about that a lot, because they all have come so far. I remember challenging those guys and those guys not backing down from it and never backtalking one of my coaches. It is going to be tough seeing those guys walking out on this field for the last time, but they are a very special group to me because of their effort to help Coach Stoops build this program. It will be a tough day."

JH: Won't a number of those guys use you to train for their pro tryouts?

JS: "Yeah, I just consider that the job is not done yet until they report to whatever team they are going to. I want the best for them, want them to finish up their career with their best effort. I want them to go as high in the draft as they can go. I want them to get the rewards at the pro level, so I want them to have every little edge in testing for the NFL. I just want them to be successful not only next year, but ten years down the road in their lives. As long as I am here I am going to help every single player that plays for us in any way that I can."

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