One of the most enjoyable things about covering college football is getting to know the young men that play the game and watch how they develop within the program. Not every player becomes a star, or even a starter. Many are destined to be a back up or a special teams player, and many of those players never see the spotlight.
In some cases, we the media and fans look down upon these players as failures failing ourselves to realize how hard they practice and what they put into the program. For the past four years I have only talked about senior Brett Rayl in disappointing tones, because I always talked about how he was underachieving and never living up to his vast potential.
I, like so many was disappointed in the fact that such a great physical specimen couldn't work his way into the starting line up or even among the top eight of the offensive line rotation.
However, considering the recent events of this year when Akim Millington walked out on the Sooners just as he was getting ready to start his first game, and Brandon Keith also walked out on the team when he was almost guaranteed a starting position by midseason at worst, I think we should have looked at Rayl differently all along.
For the past couple of weeks, the majority of those who post on OUInsider.com have been focusing on the number of offensive linemen who have quit the program and why, and yet maybe we should have been focusing on a guy, who despite the fact he couldn't crack the rotation, went through every workout and never thought once about quitting the team.
Rayl finally got a chance to play this past Saturday against Kansas, replacing the injured Davin Joseph. Rayl gave a great account of him self earning a winning grade from OU offensive line coach Kevin Wilson and was one of the big reasons why OU was able to make adjustments at halftime and produce 200-plus yards of offense in the second half.
Earlier this week, Rayl took the time to join OUInsider.com for the Two Minute Drill!
JH: Brett, guys like you, who are never in the spotlight, but who keep digging and keep trying are one of the main reasons why I love to cover college football. Congratulations on your effort against Kansas.
BR: "Yeah, thanks a lot. I have been waiting for my opportunity for a while. I was beginning to think that it was never going to get there. I just decided a long time ago to just keep going. I finally got my shot this past Saturday and I made the most of it."
JH: What was it like to finally get in there and have success?
BR: "It was great. I was so excited that they kept telling me to shutup on the field. I was talking to everybody, because I was so excited to be out on the field. It was a great experience for me -- one that I have been waiting on forever."
JH: Were you talking to the other team, talking to your own guys or the officials or who?
BR: "I was talking to anybody that was near me. I was just talking up a storm out there. I was so happy to be out there finally. It was just like I remembered it in high school. It was so much fun. It has been a while, but I am glad that I finally got out there."
JH: At the beginning of the year Coach Kevin Wilson said he felt it was important for the offensive line if you would start to play up to your potential. And then in preseason camp I guess that didn't work out. Now that you have played he is saying again that he feels it is important that you take the success you had against Kansas and build upon it for the future. Do you realize the importance to the offense that your coach sees in you?
BR: "Our offensive line has always been pretty limited due to numbers. We don't have that many people, so everybody that plays offensive line is a main factor in some way in any game. I have always felt that I could be a main factor in any game and I have always prepared myself that way."
JH: Even though you have never started you have always been a great worker in the summer and you have always worked hard in practice. Yet you have watched as so many other offensive linemen have left the program for whatever reason. Do you feel they can't take he workout, just aren't tough enough mentally or what?
BR: "The workouts are always hard, but that is what makes us Oklahoma. Those workouts make us who we are and makes us have that extra push in the fourth quarter that other teams don't have. I am sure everybody on our team would agree that summer workouts are hard, but they are not so hard that anybody on our team can't do them."
JH: Are they any harder for an offensive lineman than say a defensive lineman or running back?
BR: "Everybody does the same workout, but it is tailored to positions. Nobody has any different amount of work to do, so it is not any harder for the offensive linemen than anybody else on the team. If you make you make it, and if you don't you don't. It is up to the individual doing it to decide if he is going to make it or not."
JH: You played very well against Kansas, but what has kept you from playing at that level all the time?
BR: "You know, I don't really know. I guess I have never really got a shot. Unfortunately, somebody (Joseph) got hurt and I got to go in and do what I have been waiting to do for a long time now."
JH: Coach Wilson says you can play both guard and tackle, but he said recently that he really thinks tackle is your best position. Would you agree with that?
BR: "Yeah, I think tackle is a lot easier. You are not in there bumping around with people. At tackle it is just you and one other guy going one-on-one most of the time. It is like a hand-to-hand fistfight."
JH: You said that you were having so much fun in the game against Kansas, but for those of us how have never played in the pits it is hard for us to imagine that you can have fun playing on the offensive line?
BR: "Yeahm it is a great time. Sometimes you get pushed around a little, but other times you push them around. And everybody is talking smack back-and-forth to each other. I don't know, it may not be this way for some other people, but I enjoy that and I have fun."
JH: The second half against Kansas Rhett had time to throw and the offense did so much better. What was the big difference in the second half for the offensive line than the first half?
BR: "I really don't know. We just went into the locker room and the coaches made some adjustments and we all just focused and knew what we were doing when we came back out on the field. We knew that we had a real high possibility of losing if we didn't start doing better, so we just played better."
JH: Do you feel the momentum that the offense gained in the second half of the Kansas game will be with you for the rest of the year?
BR: "Oh yeah. Any win is a huge step forward for the offense. We are just going to keep plugging along, not really change anything up, just keep a better work ethic and keep going. We want to see how good we can actually get."
Rayl making the most of his opportunity
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