I take a great deal of pride and have a great deal of fun in my job, and one of the biggest reasons why is because of the relationships that I develop with the athletes that I cover at OU. In most cases, that relationship starts in recruiting and carries over many years after their playing days are done.
That has certainly been the case with senior Dusty Dvoracek. As a recruit, he was a very intelligent young man to talk to and at OU he has always been an easy-going athlete to deal with, despite the fact he quickly grew into star status. Dusty never big-timed anybody and he was always a good quote, never cocky, but also never afraid to speak his mind.
When Dusty ran into his off-the-field problems, as many of you know I defended him to the hilt. Yes, I realized that Dusty had made mistakes and he wasn't perfect, but I always realized that his teammates and coaches loved him, that his friends loved him, he was a good student and their wasn't a better teammate on the football team. He wasn't a bad person, but a person with a problem that needed to be addressed.
After being suspended from the team, Dvoracek sought out help for his drinking problem. In the process, he never said a negative word about the football program, didn't rip the coaching staff through the media, maintained his grade point average and stayed in shape.
Dvoracek could have entered the NFL draft and he would have been drafted in the top three rounds, but instead he found out he could possibly earn another year of eligibility with the Sooners. Once OU Head Coach Bob Stoops gave him permission to rejoin the team, Dvoracek went after the additional year and in an unprecedented move the NCAA granted him that year.
Dusty has played exceptional this year and Coach Stoops says he has been more productive than any other defensive tackle he has coached at OU. He is projected as a first round draft choice and through what has turned out to be a trying year, Dusty has remained rock solid.
As my Thanksgiving treat to all of you on OUInsider.com, I give you a [i]Two Minute Dril[/i]l with the ultimate Sooner Dusty Dvoracek.
JH: Considering all you have gone through to play your senior year this year, what does it actually mean to you to be a Sooner playing in his final home game?
DD: "It is so exciting. And to play against our rivals OSU makes it even more awesome. I have played them three times and I am 1-2 against them. I think they are the only team that I have played against that we have a losing record. It will mean a lot to get this win and to play in front of these great fans once again. I want to play my best game ever. I am real excited and I can't wait until Saturday."
JH: When you reflect back on your career, what will you remember most about your playing days at OU?
DD: "I will always think about my teammates and my coaches. I think more than anything my teammates and all the friendships that I have made. I will think about all the things that we have been through over the last five years. You go through a lot of things together with a large group of guys like we have, and I made some really good friendships with some guys that I will have for the rest of my life.
"I think in 20 years from now I am going to look back and it won't be the plays that I look back on, it will be sitting in the locker room and how we felt on the sidelines. It will be how we felt after that Texas Tech game and how we felt after all the Texas games. That is the stuff that you keep forever. That is the stuff that is awesome."
JH: What will you remember about Coach Jackie Shipp?
DD: "I will remember that he is tough. He is always hard on me, but he is a great coach. He was always a great coach and a great guy. The thing about him is that he wants his players to be the best players possible. He is going to get it out of you one way or another, whether you want to or not. He is going to make sure that he gets your absolute best of you. He is a great man and a great coach. I am very fortunate to have had him."
MEDIA: Do you hate Oklahoma State?
DD: "My mom taught me a long time ago to never hate anybody. I don't hate them at all, but I wish things would have been different against them. They have beaten us more times than we have since I have been here. I want to win and I want to beat those guys. It is an in-state rivalry and whoever wins that game kind of has bragging rights over the state for the next year. It means a lot to this program and it means a lot to our players, and considering it is our last game I really want to win."
MEDIA: Does the game lose a little luster because they are having such a bad season?
DD: "They may not have had the season they hoped for, but I would say they haven't had a horrible season. They played Texas really well and they beat Texas Tech — a team that beat us. They were beating Texas 28-9 at halftime, so they are a team that has gotten better each week.
"They are playing pretty darn good football. The game doesn't lose any luster for me. I could care less if we were both 0-10. If I am playing in this game I am going to give it all I got. I am going to play like it is our National Championship, so for me the game doesn't lose anything."
JH: When you think about your season, has it gone as well as you wanted?
DD: "You go into a season and you count on winning every game. That is the goal starting off. Our season has been up and down, but I have been so proud of this team. I think we showed last week, even though we didn't win, that we are going to fight until the bitter end. We did that and we fought and scrapped until the very end.
"I think we have shown that we have gotten better each week. We lost the game last week, but outside of our team I don't think many people gave us a chance of going to Texas Tech and winning. We had won four in a row and that would have been five. When we were 2-3 we had a chance to fold our tents up and at that time everybody told us we didn't have a chance to make a bowl game.
"I think it showed the character and pride of this team that we came back from that 2-3 and turned this season around. Now we have a chance to go to a pretty good bowl game."
MEDIA: Some people talk as if you really won that game against Texas Tech?
DD: "Well, I am looking at this thing (OU media release) right here and it says 23-21 with an L next to it. So, no matter who wants to talk about it all they want, it goes down in the books as a loss. That's the way it goes. There are controversial calls all the time. We lost and that is pretty much the bottom line about it.
"Unfortunately, it was a tough one. It was one of those games that it seemed like nobody should lose. Everybody played so well and so hard you kind of wish everybody could have gone home a winner, but this is real life and somebody has to lose and in that game it was us."
JH: Because of how you lost that game, does it make it harder to get past that game?
DD: "No, it doesn't. We need to bring our A-game Saturday to beat Oklahoma State. If we don't we are going to lose again, so that last game needs to be in our back window. It is Thursday and that was Saturday, so maybe Sunday you are still a little down. I think everybody is really focused in on Oklahoma State and have put that Tech game behind us."
JH: Oklahoma State has really improved in the running game, don't you think?
DD: "That running back (Hamilton) runs really hard. Their offensive line blocks hard. The thing about them is that they will play harder probably than anybody we have played against. They play so hard and when they play us they are going to play harder than they have played anybody all year.
"I think everybody knows that and they will tell you that this is their biggest game every year. They are going to play their best game against us. They have a great running attack and their quarterback is coming along. They have made great strides and it is going to be a challenge for us on Saturday."
JH: You still have a boot on your foot, so are you playing on Saturday?
DD: "Yeah, I have been trying to talk them into letting me practice (Thursday) so I can get out and get some snaps. I didn't get to practice last week, but I am begging them to let me practice this week. I don't know how much they will let me, but if there is one thing that I can guarantee you will be that I play against Oklahoma State."
JH: What is your mark that you feel that you have left on this program?
DD: "I don't know. I think that is kind of up to you guys, fans and everybody else to decide. What I hope what I leave with everybody is that I was a good guy who loved football, loved the Oklahoma football tradition and gave it everything that he had on every play. TI just tried to enjoy playing football. I left everything that I had on the field every Saturday, because that is what it is all about."
JH: It hurt you greatly that you didn't get to go through senior day last year with your teammates, but now that you have a second chance can you give us an idea what that is going to mean to you to get a chance to celebrate senior day with your friends?
DD: "It is awesome. The crazy thing is that this is my last game, and then in three weeks I have graduation. It is all really neat. I was talking to my brother and I told him that I was closing this chapter in my book and this chapter is coming to an end. There are going to be more chapters to come, but it is really neat. I am going to get to go out there with my parents and I know they are going to be so proud. I will get a chance to say goodbye to all the fans one last time. Fans are who make it all happen and makes it all great. I hope that I have won them back over and that they believe in me. I can't wait until Saturday. It is going to be an emotional day and I hope to play the best game that I possibly can."
Dvoracek: "I can't wait until Saturday"
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