NORMAN, Okla. -- As he prepared for his first action as a Sooner, Adam Shead was filled with uncertainty.
The Oklahoma guard, then a redshirt freshman, had a feeling he might play against Tulsa in the Sooners' 2011 season opener.
"I remember before the game I was like, 'Ah, crap, I might play tonight,'" Shead said. "We get down to it and (interior line coach James Patton) throws me in and I'm like, 'I'm not ready for this.' I didn't say that, but I'm thinking it in my head. Then I get out there and I'm thinking, 'Just don't get beat.'"
Shead saw the first action of his Sooner career in OU's 47-14 win over the Golden Hurricane. After the initial shock of being in the game, he got more comfortable.
"My first time going out there against Tulsa, I'll never forget, after three plays I threw up on the field," Shead said. "That was kind of like an icebreaker, it really helped me to stay composed."
A year later, Shead is one of the core members of the Sooners offensive line and has the upside to join a long line of Sooners linemen who earned All-Big 12 or even All-American honors.
After overcoming the uncertainty of his first action, Shead discovered things just came naturally between the white lines.
"I get out there and it's just natural," he said. "Now that I'm in there, I know what to expect, so there aren't as many jitters as my first time against Tulsa."
He earned time in OU's rotation during the first few games last season, then started five games after center Ben Habern was injured and guard Gabe Ikard moved over to center.
"He has a chance to be a pretty good player," Patton said. "He showed it in practice (first). When he showed it in practice, we ended up putting him in the game."
Shead played in 10 games in 2011 and finished the season with 62 knockdowns, including a career-high 14 against Baylor.
"As a young guy, I think he knows he's talented," offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. "I don't think he knew how he would respond when given the situation. I think week after week he got more experienced and continued to play at a higher level."
The year of learning proved invaluable for the 6-foot-4, 307-pound Texas native.
"I learned to just play your game," he said. "I can't worry about things, once you worry about things you get beat."
This season, Shead has used his feet, which are unusually quick for a man his size, along with his mean streak to help the Sooners average 7.1 yards per rushing attempt and 277 rushing yards per game.
Even though he has made a major impact early in his career, Shead still has work to do and goals to achieve.
"When you come to places like Oklahoma, that's one of the things you're sold on," he said. "You see the trophies, the All-Americans and you want to be better. It's only natural that anyone would think 'I can be on that wall one day.' "
But he won't get there if he becomes satisfied with his initial contributions.
"He's a guy that can play at an extremely high level here if he continues to push himself and comes with that approach every single day," Heupel said. "We need him to play at that type of level on the left side."
Said Patton: "He continues to get better and works hard. That's one thing he needs to be motivated by, keep working hard and pushing himself to a higher level."