One-on-One with Andre Woolfolk

Sooner cornerback Andre Woolfolk talks about his transition from offense to defense, summer workouts and replacing Rocky and Roy in '02

Senior cornerback Andre Woolfolk is the best cornerback in the country, but the country doesn't know it yet. Called by the Sooner coaches as the best all-around athlete on the Sooner squad, Woolfolk is considered a Jim Thorpe candidate by the OU staff. And in fact, they are pushing him for the award more than junior Derrick Strait, who is ranked higher in the preseason.

Woolfolk is a fulltime cornerback now and seems to enjoy it. He didn't take one snap at wide receiver and he is not being counted upon on offense this year. The pros already have him projected as a second round draft choice and it is only a matter of a great senior year from being a top 10 pick in the NFL draft.

Summer workouts are hitting the grinding stage, but 'Woolf' had enough energy to still talk to us after a recent workout.

JH: Andre, you were recruited to OU by John Blake and early in your career the Sooners were losing. Now you are winning and the atmosphere certainly has changed, hasn't it?

AW: Everything has changed around here, from us winning, to the facilities and even the fans. The fans have changed most of all, because I can remember getting booed when we lost to Cal at home 13-12. That is one of the worst memories that I have ever had at this school, so everything has changed a lot for the better.

JH: Tommie Harris played as a true freshman last year. When you came out of high school did you feel you were really going to play at a high level of college football?

AW: To be truthful, players are coming into our program out of high school bigger and stronger every year. Travis Wilson is a receiver that just came into our program and he is already at 200 pounds. I came in at about 168 pounds and just now weigh 200 pounds. The first time I saw Tommie Harris I thought he was a JUCO guy. I went up to him and asked him what junior college he was from and he said,' No I am a freshman just out of high school.' I just started laughing, because I couldn't believe it. I don't know what he was eating back home or what he was doing, but whoever was taking care of him got him right before they sent him up here.

JH: You mentioned Travis Wilson looks like he is a fantastic athlete. Do you feel he can contribute this year?

AW: Yes, I sure do. A lot of those freshmen are working in our pass skeleton and in our seven-on-seven drills and they are ready to go. They are competing right now to just get some playing time. It is going to be interesting to see what happens this upcoming season because nobody is guaranteed to play or start on our team.

JH: The fact that every year you feel you have to compete for your job keeps you motivated, doesn't it?
AW: "It keeps me real motivated. Right now we have three or four corners that we are trying to stick in there and only two can start. That keeps you on your toes all the time."

JH: What other freshman have impressed you at this point?

AW: "I don't know all the names yet, but I know the two that impress me the most are Michael Hawkins and Rufus Alexander. They go out there and show out pretty good. It has taken a couple of the others a little longer to get adjusted, because they got here late in the summer."

JH: Do the freshman have a chip on their shoulder right now?

AW: "We have a few that come in a do that kind of stuff, but that will change when they hit the wall. Right now they don't realize that they really aren't ready. They still have so much too learn. I know that I had to when I was a freshman. I don't think I came in with a big head and if I did it didn't last long, because the seniors put me in my place."

JH: You, Curtis Fagan and some of the veterans have experienced some great success over the last couple of years, and this year you are ranked in the top five of every preseason poll that is out there. You have to feel very good about the football program right now?

AW: "I really don't care what we are ranked right now. I only care what we are ranked at the end of the year. It does make me feel proud of what we are accomplishing right now, because I was here when didn't have those great years. Since I have gone through the bad times, the good times now look real good."

JH: Is there any pressure that has come with success?

AW: "No, because I stay away from the preseason magazines and all the press clippings, and most of our guys do that as well. We don't put any undo pressure on ourselves."

JH: So, you try not to read anything about yourself, not even after you have a big game?

AW: "I might buy the newspaper if my picture is in it, but I don't read the article about the game. If I take time to read everything about me or to keep everything that is written about me, then I am no different than those that watch the game."

JH: You had a great defense last year with Roy Williams and Rocky Calmus as the leaders on the team. Will you take over the leadership role this year?

AW: "Being a senior doesn't mean that you will be a leader. Our coaches don't force leadership on us, but there are people that automatically take on that role. Right now Teddy Lehman and Brandon Everage are stepping up being leaders. They have been in this defense for three years now. I am really a new guy into it, because I am basically a sophomore on this defense. I know what I am doing, so I am kind of a leader, but I don't know absolutely everything that they know. Since I am the only senior that is starting on defense I am pressing myself to be a bigger leader. I have to go out there and work harder so that I know what I need to know to be a leader."

JH: You have Colorado on your schedule for the first time in a couple of years and since you are from Denver you are looking forward to that game?

AW: "More than playing against a few players I might know is the fact they are the only Big 12 team that we haven't beaten since I have been at Oklahoma. Not too many people really know that, but we certainly know that. The beat us in 1999 right from the jump. Right from the start of the game they handed the game to us. I can't worry about the game right now, because we have other tough games before that one. Our schedule is packed with teams that can jump up and bite you."

JH: You are not from Oklahoma so you might not have thought much of the OU-Texas game when you arrived at OU. What do you think about it now?

AW: "Yeah, I appreciate the game a whole lot more. When I was in high school Oklahoma was having those down years and the game wasn't on prime-time television. The game was watered down and the Colorado-Nebraska game became the big game. Now it has changed back to Oklahoma and Texas. Everywhere that I go I see the OU-Texas shirts and everybody is talking about the game. It is such a big event that if you are not watching that game on that Saturday, then I am not sure what you are watching."

JH: What do you tell people back in Denver when you tell them about Oklahoma football?

AW: "It's hard to explain, because we don't have anything in Denver that can relate to it. We have pro football, which is totally different than college football. I just tell them to just imagine most of the state in love with your football team. I am not going to say all of the fans in Oklahoma like OU, because I see some Oklahoma State fans too, but the majority are OU fans. When I take the field it is overwhelming what college football is all about for Oklahoma fans. OU fans are hungry for OU football year-round. In the summer they count down the days until our first game. There is nothing that can compare to that back home."

JH: Who is going to replace Roy Williams, and better yet, how are you going to replace Roy? The same goes for Rocky Calmus.

AW: "Those were two phenomenal players, but basically we are going to have to find players that fit that mold. Eric Bassey is doing a pretty good job in Roy's spot, but you can never totally replace a guy like Roy as far as physical capabilities. He was a great athlete and if we had another Roy then he would already be going pro. Right now, what we have in Eric Bassey is everything that we need. What he brings is more speed to the position and a little better cover ability, yet he is also physical enough to make tackles at the line of scrimmage. He is not as physical as Roy, but he is physical enough to make plays." "Teddy will step in for Rocky and play well, but with Teddy moving outside the question is whether Lance Mitchell and Pasha Jackson can play in the middle and at the strongside linebacker spot. Both have great talent, but they haven't played any football at this level yet."

JH: Roy seemed to make so many unbelievable plays last year. How much of that was just pure instinct on his part or Roy just playing within the defensive system?

AW: "Last year we focused a lot of watching film and extra film. We knew what the possibilities of our opponents running a certain play each timed they lined up in their formation. Once you can feel and have an understanding of what they are going to do then you are already ahead of the game. It is almost like catching a groove when you are bowling. We play defense like we are bowling a 300 game all year. All that extra film he watched gave him a feeling of what the play was going to be and most of the time he made the plays."

JH: Do you still think about the OSU game, and have the players forgotten about that game?

AW: "I don't think about it. To be honest, we have moved on from that game. We can't linger on that game, because we have lost to other people as well. Remember, we lost to Nebraska. We have to move on or we won't improve. We will get a chance to play them again this year and when that game comes up then we will think about it."

Sooners Illustrated Top Stories