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Eric Striker stumbled onto Sooners

1/31/2012

If Florida had been playing LSU or Alabama or Texas or some other top program in the 2009 BCS national championship game, we might be talking about safety Eric Striker (Seffner, Fla./Armwood) and his commitment to one of those schools.

But the Gators weren't playing one of those teams. The 2009 title game featured Florida and Oklahoma, and ever since, Striker has been all about the Sooners.

Despite being a Florida kid, Striker simply never had the desire to stay in the state. What he saw from OU on that night and in the last three years convinced him that the Sooners were going to be his college team.

"He knew early," Seffner Armwood coach Sean Callahan said. "He said after his freshman year that he would be at OU, and he never stopped believing it."

Striker said it didn't matter that OU lost the game. If the Sooners could play a Florida team in a competitive game like that, they weren't pushovers, he thought.

The interesting part was that Striker wasn't even a big college football fan as a freshman. He said the biggest reason he started following the game was because he knew he probably should if he was going to have a future in college football.

And it didn't take long for people to realize Striker was going to have a future at the next level. Striker ended his career as the school's all-time leader in career sacks. The jump he gets off the ball, he said, started long before high school.

"In little league, I was a nose guard. Really, I was," Striker said. "I wasn't that big, obviously, but I knew how to jump the snap."

His future wasn't at nose guard, though. Striker said he wanted the ball in his hands and wanted to play wide receiver. Callahan saw Striker's potential on defense. Suffice to say, Callahan made the right decision.

Though Striker wasn't a big college football fan, there was an OU moment before that championship game that stuck out.

"It was in 2004, I think, and I remember watching a game with my dad," Striker said. "Before the kickoff, those fans were going "O ... U" when the ball was kicked, I thought that was so cool. I looked at that crowd, and you knew how much they loved the game."

Striker, 6-foot and 190, is a three-star prospect. That three-star label has driven Striker lately. He watched the Under Armour game earlier this month, and deep down, he felt he should have been there. College is his chance to show what the scouts were missing.

There was concern he could de-commit from Oklahoma after the departure of Brent Venables to Clemson two weeks ago. Venables was the only coach Striker had been communicating with during the process. But after thinking about it, he let it be known he is still OU all the way.

"I'm not from Oklahoma, and I didn't know who the coaches were in that championship game I watched," Striker. "It's not about the coaches. It's about the program. I am coming to OU for OU. I had a great relationship with Coach Venables, and now I have to start building that with the new coaches."

One of the first things new OU linebackers coach Tim Kish did was reach out to Striker. They spoke for about 35 minutes last week, and Striker said he could tell Kish was knowledgeable about the game. He is ready to learn and is expected to play safety at OU.

"Eric is somebody who gives you everything he has," Callahan said. "He's a big-time hitter, but he also has good knack for the ball. He's been a huge part of our success."

Striker also was being recruited heavily by Iowa, but he knew early on that every school was playing for second. An official visit to OU in October confirmed everything, and Striker said he is counting down the days until he gets to Norman, Okla.

Unlike a lot of recruits, Striker has avoided social media and isn't on Facebook or Twitter. He said he is not concerned about not knowing his fellow recruits, as he will have plenty of time to do so later. There is one recruit he has developed a good relationship with in wide receiver commit Sterling Shepard (Oklahoma City/Heritage Hall).

He has watched Shepard's film, and it makes Striker realize he still wants the ball in his hands. However, he said he knows there are still ways he can do that on defense.

"I do love the big hits, but I can do both things on defense," Striker said. "I can make the big hit, and then I can go score. I don't have to choose."

Striker is going to sign his national letter of intent at 10:30 a.m. CT on Wednesday.

Bob Przybylo covers football and basketball recruiting for SoonerNation. He can be reached at bprzybyloespn@gmail.com.

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