Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jordan Eagle Road Walk-on at OU is Hope of a Nation

College Football seasons kicks off next Saturday in Norman with the University of Oklahoma hosting the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes on Saturday night at Owen Field.  Coming out of the tunnel for the first time to the cheers and strains of Boomer Sooner will be Choctaw native son, Jordan Eagle Road, in his first appearance as a member of the Oklahoma Sooners.  OU had very few scholarships available this year so a preferred walk-on has a great chance to get a full ride football scholarship during his playing time at Oklahoma.  He is a very good athlete and student which will take him far in life.  Children of the Choctaw Nation as well as other tribes will be rooting for this young man along with whole the Sooner Nation.

You see so much bad written about college athletes this year like those at the University of Miami, Ohio State, USC, North Carolina, and more who were more worried about the almighty dollar than loyalty to their team and their university.  The lack of values by some of these football players cast a shadow on college football.  The problem is we get so many stories about those who break the rules and so little about the college athletes who are also good students who don't get into trouble.

That is what made it great to read a story of a young man, Jordan Eagle Road, who turned down a full ride scholarship at a smaller school to fulfill his dream of playing at the University of Oklahoma as a preferred walk-on.  When I saw this in the Norman Transcript this morning I thought it was a great story to restart Voices from the Heartland this weekend as summer is coming to close hopefully along with 100+ days with little to no rain.  To look on the bright side, my lawnmower has not had much of a workout this summer.

Boomer Sooner!
August 28, 2011Walk-on is hope of a nation
Talahina Choctaw shuns full scholarship to play for D-I OU
By Michael Kinney The Norman Transcript 
NORMAN — Residents of tiny Talihina — population pushing 2,000 — hope a native son will put them on the map.
Oklahoma wide receivers coach Jay Norvell (left)
 gives instructions to freshman walk on Jordan Eagle
Road during the Sooners' first practice of the
 season, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011. (Transcript photo
by Jerry Laizure)
Centered in the middle of Choctaw country, Talihina’s greatest export soon may be Jordan Eagle Road. The freshman for the University of Oklahoma football team is not only carrying his own hopes and dreams with him around campus, but also those of his family and the Choctaw people.
“We are from a very small Southeastern town,” Eagle Road’s mother, Teresa, said. “No one in this area ever gets looked at. This is just exciting for all youths to see Jordan accomplish a goal like going to a D-I school and participating in football.”
Eagle Road has been part of the Sooner program for a few weeks. He hasn’t played in a single down and most likely will not this season.  
The 6-2, 185 pounder is a preferred walk-on trying to learn an entirely new position.
“I have never been through anything like this before,” Eagle Road said. “I knew it was going to be hard when I came up here. But it has been real fun and I’ve learned a lot. Every day it’s competitive. Every day you go out there you are going to be competitive or you are going to get yelled at.” 
Yet, just his presence on the Oklahoma roster has already put Eagle Road in a very unique standing. He is only one of the few full-blooded American Indians currently on a Division I football team. 
“I think there’s a reality to that; you are going to find less than a handful of female American Indian athletes playing at Division I programs across the country,” said Cedric Sunray, an adjunct instructor in American Indian Studies at Bacone College. “You are not even going to find that many male American Indian athletes across the country. You are talking about the heart of Indian territory, the University of Oklahoma. And to have a kid like him on the team is a blessing. Not only for the Choctaw nation, but also other tribes in the state. For OU as well.” 
According to Sunray, many college coaches are reluctant to recruit American Indian students because of the stereotype that they will just leave school. Those who come from a rural reservation-based community and into an urban center can have a culture shock and have been known not to stay. 
“You have to see yourself in a mirror to be impacted very, very strongly,” Sunray said. “It’s one thing to see a young man out there, who is successful in the field, has good grades but doesn’t happen to be American Indian. That person can impact lives too. But when an Indian kid sees Jordan Eagle Road, they say. ‘That’s me.’ When these Indian kids see Jordan, they just automatically go to him. They see themselves in him and then know they can be successful.” 
Eagle Road’s high school career was one of legendary status in Talihina. As a senior he quarterbacked the Golden Tigers to a 12-1 record with 770 yards passing and 11 TDs to go along with 1,890 yards rushing and another 29 scores. For his career he racked up more than 100 touchdowns for the 2A squad. 
But when recruiting season started, he was getting lukewarm interest from Division I schools.
“He got a lot of letters, no offers, but letters from OU, OSU,” Eagle Road’s father, Bill, said. 
“They were kind of interested. We went down to TCU to visit that school. We were going to go with whatever offer we had. UCO came looking around Christmas time. Then Northeastern came calling about a month before signing day. We always thought about what if he had that chance to go to a bigger school?” 
That is when Sunray took an interest in Eagle Road. He was working as the American Indian athletic recruiter at Bacone when he heard about the prep star. Sunray approached the Eagle Road family to learn more about Jordan. He came away impressed with what he found out and decided to do something about it. 
“I was a Bacone College at the time we were certainly recruiting him and I noticed there were no Division I programs recruiting him,” Sunray said. “I thought to myself, a kid that scores 112 rushing touchdowns in his four-year career, has a 3.5 GPA, 25 ACT, he’s an identifiable straight up Indian boy and he didn’t have any D-I offers? He would have had a full ride at our small college, which is the oldest historically Indian college in the country. I couldn’t sleep one night. And I talked to my wife and she said you need to go down to athletic department at OU.” 
Sunray met with Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and Bruce Kittle, the on-campus recruiting coordinator. He presented them with a portfolio of Eagle Road to go along with game tapes the Talihina coach had sent them. They soon extended Eagle Road an invitation to walk-on at Oklahoma. 
The family had already made the decision that if the Sooners offered an invite, they would turn down the full scholarship offers he had gotten from smaller programs. They felt he would make a larger impact being part of Oklahoma. 
“Everyone looks up to Jordan,” Teresa Eagle Road said. “He’s a good student. Having a Native American set that standard, it’s something that would show to all Indians that if he can make it at OU and get on a scholarship, it can happen to another youth who could be in his place one day. Work hard, study hard academically, athletically, put them all together you have a great student and athlete. For him to go to OU, they are looking up to him.” 
Jordan Eagle Road could have saved his family money, gotten a good education and had a great career at NSU, Bacone or any of the other schools who had an interest in him. But for him to make his biggest impact, Sunray said he felt Oklahoma was the only place for Jordan. 
“It’s because of how people can view him,” Sunray said. “If he had gone to play at Bacone or NSU in front of a small amount of people, it wouldn’t have that prestige quite honestly associated with it. Whereas the change he can create in the lives of young American Indians as a player for the No. 1 team in the nation at the Division I level is much greater. With that forum, there is so much he can do.” 
Eagle Road already has been contacted by the Oklahoma Indian Health Center and other places that have asked him to come speak to the youth. America Indians have one the highest rates of suicide, substance abuse and other social problems among any ethic group in the country. But Sunray said they do not get the attention that others do. Having a player like Eagle Road succeed can shine a light on them. 
Eagle Road is taking it all in stride. Even though he knows he has responsibilities that have a far-reaching effect, his first job is to help the Sooners in anyway possible. 
But Eagle Road does recognize his story will carry weight when it spreads throughout Talihina and the rest of state. 
“You can dream big if you want,” Eagle Road said. “But if you work hard at it, you can get to where you want to be. I really wasn’t thinking about coming here. It wasn’t on my mind because I am at a small school. I thought it was kind of far-fetched for me to dream about being here. 
Every Oklahoma kid grows up dreaming about playing for Oklahoma. It’s really awesome to be here right now.”
Source:  Norman Transcript