NORMAN, Okla. -- The allure of playing college football here has been a drawing card for the Sooners for years. Elite national recruits have long recognized the opportunity to compete for championships while playing in a state where football reigns supreme.
Davin Joseph left Florida to become an All-Big 12 offensive lineman at Oklahoma, running back DeMarco Murray left the bright lights of Las Vegas to become OU's all-time leader in all-purpose yardage and, more recently, California natives Brennan Clay, Tony Jefferson and Kenny Stills decided Norman was the place they wanted to call home during their collegiate careers.
Stills and Jefferson could tell the difference immediately when they arrived on campus. The football culture in Norman was unlike anything they had ever experienced.
"It's taken a lot more seriously here," Stills said. "When I was a recruit, people knew who I was. I don't think we care as much on the West Coast. So many people follow football here. In California, there's so much more to do. Our fans come out, wait for us after the game and just want to talk to us, get autographs."
Said Jefferson: "It's a big difference."
Being an Oklahoma Sooners football player in Norman is much different than being a USC Trojans player or UCLA Bruins player in Los Angeles, Jefferson said. Every day, he and Stills interact with fellow students who grew up watching the state's most beloved team on Saturdays in the fall and are die-hard Sooners fans.
"The tradition here and the atmosphere we have," Jefferson said, describing what makes Norman unique. "It fills you with joy to play at the University of Oklahoma and all the great people who have been here. Everyone around you respects you as a football player, because they grew up as a child watching OU play.
"And being a part of that means a lot to them and a lot to us."
Brandon Chatmon covers University of Oklahoma sports and recruiting for SoonerNation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.