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'He never messes up': Sooners' Drake Stoops carving role in OU offense as 'hardest worker'

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Drake Stoops

Redshirt junior wide receiver Drake Stoops during the game against Nebraska on Sept. 18.

Oklahoma didn't need its fastest, strongest or tallest player to pick up some of its longest pass plays against Nebraska last Saturday.

Instead, it got 2-of-3 such plays from Drake Stoops, a 5-foot-10 former walk-on receiver who came up big in his team-first role, despite missing the season opener against Tulane for “medical reasons.” OU fans have become accustomed to his blue-collar performance since he earned seven starts last season. 

The Norman native and son of former legendary OU coach Bob Stoops recorded two catches for 31 yards against Nebraska — one of which went for 22 yards and another came on third-down. Stoops also delivered a devastating block in the first quarter, allowing freshman receiver Mario Williams to gain 19 yards in the Sooners’ 23-16 win over the Cornhuskers.

“I take tremendous pride in that,” Stoops said of his block. “If you do your job, it allows other people to do their job well as well. And so that contributes to the team’s success. Even if it’s not your number called to make the catch, you can still do your part to help that guy make the catch. And that helps the team, and that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.”

The redshirt junior hasn’t largely contributed statistically, with just 28 career receptions, but he has developed trust among his teammates and a role many didn’t expect. He also delivers when his team needs it, like his third-down conversion against the Huskers or 20-yard game-winning touchdown against Texas last season.

Though OU's loaded receiving corps contains three former five-stars and four four-stars, Stoops continues to earn playing time with hard work. Stoops, a former three-star recruit, earned just one Power Five offer out of high school from his dad’s alma mater Iowa. However, he bet on himself and was given a scholarship by coach Lincoln Riley after the Sooners’ spring game on April 24, over four years later. 

Some of his labor includes catching 100 balls on the JUGS Football Machine before workouts every day. Stoops said the repetition, paired with his natural talent, has helped him improve.

“That’s all you expect from Drake,” redshirt sophomore quarterback Spencer Rattler said after the Nebraska game. “He never busts, he never messes up in practice. He’s the hardest worker, anybody will vouch for that. He puts in the work, puts in the time. … Put it in the right spot for him (and) he’s gonna go get it.”

Stoops made seven starts last season largely due to then-redshirt freshman slot receiver Jadon Haselwood missing the majority of the fall with a knee injury. Now Haselwood is healthy and sophomore receiver Marvin Mims has moved into Stoops’ position. And with the additions of Williams and Arkansas transfer Mike Woods, some would suggest Stoops would be buried on the depth chart. 

However, Stoops has continued to defy the odds and compete for a role in OU’s offense. His confidence and willingness to do whatever’s best for the team is testament to why he’s counted on. Stoops has proven he’s more than just the small, former walk-on that’s on the field due to his trustworthiness. 

“He’s become a guy that is not just in now because we trust him,” Riley said. “He’s in because we want to get him the ball (and) we wanna use him. He’s just gotten better. … Regardless of where any of these guys came from it’s about opportunity and he’s made the most of it.”

Austin Curtright is a journalism junior and one of The Daily's assistant sports editors. He covers OU football and has previously covered OU men's basketball, softball and soccer.

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