Sam Proctor steps up as team leader

NORMAN, Okla. -- As disappointment and anger flooded the thoughts of his teammates, Sam Proctor was thinking about opportunity.

Oklahoma had just suffered its first loss of the season, a 41-38 defeat at the hands of Texas Tech, making some Sooners players begin to think the season was over, with the main goal of a BCS championship game berth appearing to have slipped out of their hands.

Proctor knew immediately his time had come. And it had nothing to do with the football field.

The senior safety began the season expecting to be one of the leaders on the squad. When asked what he expected his role to be this season, Proctor didn't mention his prospective impact between the lines, instead pointing to his impact in the locker room.

"Whether I was going to be a captain or not, I knew I was going to have to be a leader," he said. "And mainly in the times things got negative, like two weeks ago when we lost against Tech and the energy is mainly negative."

Things don't get much more negative. Several players were openly upset with the loss, finding their disappointment and emotions hard to mask.

Proctor didn't let the loss change his positive attitude. In fact, he made a point to remain as positive as ever.

"A leader has to step in and bring positive energy to a negative situation," Proctor said. "I was looking for that opportunity. When things get bad that's when I'm going to have an opportunity to step up."

During the players-only meeting called by several leaders on the team, Proctor emphasized that the Sooners could still achieve their goals -- including a BCS title game berth. It was just that the road might have gotten harder with their defeat.

"Some guys were not understanding that you're not out of the hunt just because you have a loss," Proctor said. "I told the guys, every setback is a setup for a comeback. We had a minor setback but it was really a setup for a major comeback."

It's not all talk.

During his OU career, Proctor has lived by that motto. After earning a starting spot as a sophomore and recording 44 tackles in 13 games, including 10 starts, he lost his starting position late in 2009 and served as a backup in 2010 after Jonathan Nelson moved over from the cornerback position.

A lot of players would have quit. Quit on the team, quit on the coaches, quit on the program, quit on themselves.

Not Proctor. It's not in his DNA.

"I was raised that you never quit, you never quit," said Proctor, noting that his mother and family instilled that virtue in him during his childhood. "As long as there is time left at OU, I never gave up on myself, I want to finish strong."

Instead he stuck it out, and it's paying off this season. He has played a key role on special teams and has helped fill the void in the secondary with starting cornerback Jamell Fleming out and Aaron Colvin moving from cornerback to safety in the past two weeks.

"Sam's been a great leader in his own way," OU coach Bob Stoops said. "He's really positive, always working, always helpful to other guys as far as what he sees and what they're doing. He works hard in practice, and anytime he has had opportunities he's played well."

Proctor's perseverance has been a good example for his teammates. Even though his career in Norman probably hasn't gone quite the way he envisioned coming out of Pearland (Texas) High, he has remained committed to the program and his teammates.

"Sam Proctor is one of those guys you can speak to, and no matter what is going on, he can lift your spirits," defensive tackle Stacy McGee said. "He's kind of the preacher of the team, a real motivational guy. He never takes things negative, he's always positive. If you ask him why anythings happen he says because God has a plan for him and God has a reason."

Ultimately, Proctor wanted to leave a legacy at OU, not be remembered as a quitter or even just a football player.

"When I leave here I want my legacy to be a guy who, hopefully my light has shined in the right way," Proctor said. "With my beliefs in God and christianity, I hope guys see more than football when dealing with me. I hope they say, 'Proc could play but the way he lived and his character, that's what really stood out.' "

Brandon Chatmon covers University of Oklahoma sports and recruiting for SoonerNation. He can be reached at bchatmonespn@gmail.com.

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