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OU football: Sam Ehlinger's high school teammates, now OU students, enjoy rivalry with the now-Texas quarterback

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Gense and Ehlinger

Matt Gense (left) stands with former Westlake teammate and now-Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger (middle) following a game in high school in 2015. 

As Matt Gense strolled past the Seed Sower statue on OU's campus Monday morning, he couldn't help but take a picture of the banner hanging from the statue calling out Texas starting quarterback Sam Ehlinger. He, of course, had to send it to his old high school friend and teammate who now attends Texas. 

But this isn't just any friend or teammate. It's Ehlinger himself.

"I don't think he appreciated it," Gense said. "I knew I had to send it to him because I know it irks him."

Gense, once Ehlinger's backup quarterback at Westlake High School, is a junior at Oklahoma and still friends with the Longhorn quarterback. While the two don't talk as much as they used to, Gense never misses an opportunity to hit up his former teammate during OU-Texas week. 

"This week particularly I talk trash every year," Gense said. "I have respect for him and Texas and what they do, but I think it's so funny that it makes them mad."

Gense is one of two of Ehlinger's former teammates who currently attend OU. The other is Blake Webster, a sophomore, who was Ehlinger's starting center his senior year. 

Webster wasn't as close with Ehlinger as Gense growing up, since he's two years younger and closer with Ehlinger's brother, Jake. But that never stopped Webster from talking his own trash.

"I remember one time, Sam's sophomore season at Texas, I showed up to his doorstep in all crimson," Webster said. "He opened the door and said, 'Really, Blake?' It was pretty funny." 

Webster, an Austin native, grew up an Oklahoma fan. Gense, on the other hand, grew up a die-hard Texas fan. He and Ehlinger became friends at a young age and shared a passion for Texas football. The two often spent their Saturdays at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

That was until Gense took a trip to Norman his junior year of high school. He fell in love with Oklahoma. 

"Honestly, it was a little tough at first to flip the switch. But I'm proud to go to OU," Gense said. "Growing up in Austin, I hated OU. I was a huge Longhorn fan. But when I came to Norman to visit, I was shocked by the hospitality and the people here. I knew it was the place for me. Game day in Norman is just different, too." 

When Gense officially decided to attend OU, he knew the perfect way to let Ehlinger know. 

"Horns down was the first thing I sent him," Gense said. "He probably didn't appreciate that, either."

Ehlinger, who tweeted a year ago that he "remember(s) every single team/player that disrespects the rich tradition of the University of Texas by putting the Horns Down," doesn't find it funny when fans do the now-controversial hand sign. Not even when his former teammates and friends do it.

"He doesn't accept it from anyone," Gense said. "Growing up, going to the game as a UT fan, I hated when OU fans put the horns down. Now I hate when UT chants 'OU sucks.' It’s just part of the rivalry, and it’s what makes it special. You’re not supposed to like the people on the other side of the field."

And that's the most difficult part for Gense and Webster. 

They always cheer for the Sooners, but they can't help but have respect for their friend even if he's wearing the wrong color. 

"He was a tremendous leader for us and someone I respect," Webster said. "He had a presence about him in our locker room. Everyone in the locker room knew we were set up to win because we had Sam Ehlinger as our quarterback. ... I still want him to do well, for sure. But I want Oklahoma to beat him every time." 

Gense echoed that same sentiment, but said the one exception was the Big 12 title game a season ago. 

During the game, Gense found himself sitting with hundreds of Texas students in the fourth quarter. The game was nearing the end, and he wanted to make sure he caught up with some high school friends before it was over. Then, with 8:32 left in the game, Ehlinger was sacked in the back of the end zone by Oklahoma cornerback Tre Brown, seemingly sealing an Oklahoma victory. 

Gense couldn't contain himself. 

"I got so many bad looks," Gense said. "I got asked to leave the section and had to go back to the OU side."

As for this year, it's much of the same. 

Gense and Webster will be at the Cotton Bowl on Saturday, donning the crimson and cream. While they hope Ehlinger has a good game, it's clear who they want to win.

"Horns down all day," Gense said. "No doubt about it."

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George Stoia joined The Daily in the fall of 2016 as a sophomore and has covered the soccer team, both men's and women's basketball, as well as the football team for the past three years. He graduates in May 2020.

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