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OU football: Brendan 'Bookie' Radley-Hiles finds satisfaction, not redemption in career game against South Dakota

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Bookie Radley-Hiles

Sophomore defensive back "Bookie" Radley-Hiles before the game against South Dakota Sept. 7.

As Brendan 'Bookie' Radley-Hiles trotted into the end zone for his first career pick-six at Oklahoma, his family couldn't help but be overjoyed. 

Radley-Hiles' brothers, Brian and Lucky, along with their mom, Brenda, watched from a distance — the 50-yard line on the away side about eight rows up — as the heralded sophomore defensive back had the breakthrough game of his Sooner career in a 70-14 win over South Dakota. 

"We know he's always ready and has been working hard," Brian told The Daily after the game. "We've kind of been waiting for him to have a breakout game and make some big plays ... It was only a matter of time."

Lucky added, "It was refreshing to see him making plays like we know he can. That's who he is."

It wasn't a feeling of redemption, but instead satisfaction for Radley-Hiles and his family. 

"It was just a game. Just got to make sure I go into the next game as hungry as ever, make sure I provide plays like that for my team," Radley-Hiles said. "I've had, multiple times, visions of having games like this throughout the entire time I've been in high school and college growing up. But really being able to have the reality strike, it was a great experience for me tonight."

Radley-Hiles was thrown into the fire his freshman season. A five-star recruit out of IMG Academy, he was expected to be the savior of Oklahoma's defense.

He was anything but. 

He started in 11 games at safety for the Sooners, making few plays and too many mistakes. He was eventually benched during the West Virginia game and didn't even see the field in the Big 12 Championship against Texas. For the first time in his football career, he didn't live up to expectations. 

"Those ups and downs were expected. He was a true freshman, playing ball on some of the biggest stages in college football," Brian said. "They were to be expected, he understood that. He took the criticism on the chin and didn't make any excuses about it. He went back to work.

"He knew he had to pay his dues." 

Radley-Hiles showed his full potential against the Coyotes Saturday night. He's never going to be a guy that fills that stat box, but he is a guy that makes game-changing plays. He's a ballhawk, and he showcased that with his interception and fumble recovery. 

He credits new Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch for this success. He says Grinch has made his job easier, letting him be free to make plays in a simple defense. 

"I give all the credit to my coaches," Radley-Hiles said. "Coach Grinch's defense is very simple. You have maybe three jobs total on a playcall. And if you understand his defense, you can go from point A to B to C very quickly." 

Grinch knows his defense will need Radley-Hiles to continue to make plays like he did Saturday.

"Through two weeks, I've been pleased with him and you obviously see some big time plays," Grinch said. "The message for him is to be confident not comfortable ... I'm excited for him and I'm excited for us. We need playmakers on this defense."

Radley-Hiles still has a ways to go, and a good game against an FCS opponent is nothing to write home about. 

But for the kid from Inglewood, California, and the family that continuously supports him, Saturday was a stepping stone and a glimpse of what he brings to the table for a national-title-contending team.  

"This is just the beginning ... It was well overdue," Lucky said. "It was very exciting to finally see him put it all together. And it's time for that. It's time to put the masterpiece together." 

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I joined The Daily in the fall of 2016 as a sophomore. I've covered the soccer team, both men's and women's basketball, as well as the football team for the past two years. I have been the sports editor since spring 2018.

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