For Oklahoma, it’s one thing to lose a recruiting battle to the University of Texas.
It’s quite another to watch that player become an impact performer at the Cotton Bowl in early October. Here’s a look at a few players who picked the Longhorns over the Sooners then stepped up their play against OU, leaving Sooner Nation left to wonder: What if?
Running back Earl Campbell, Tyler, Texas/John Tyler, Class of 1974
After in-home visits from OU head coach Barry Switzer and Texas head coach Darrell Royal, Campbell narrowed his list to the Sooners and Longhorns. He made a campus visit in Norman but committed to UT during his campus visit in Austin. According to his official website, Campbell was still unsure as signing day neared, so he prayed. "God, if it's your will that I should attend the University of Texas, then I'll get up during the night to pee. If not, if I sleep through the night, then I'll know your choice for me will be the University of Oklahoma."
Clearly, Campbell did not sleep through the night.
And the Sooners, particularly Coach Switzer, will always lament his active bladder. His 25-yard touchdown run against the Sooners during his Heisman-winning season in 1977 is one of the "go-to" highlights of Campbell's days in a Longhorns uniform.
Campbell went on to be an Heisman Trophy winner, two-time All-American and three-time All-SWC performer during his time at Texas. He finished with 4,443 career rushing yards and 41 touchdowns. He's also a Pro Football Hall of Famer.
Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, Plano, Texas/Plano West, Class of 2010
Sooners fans still watch Jeffcoat with an air of discontent. And they have at least one more season to watch him create problems for opposing offenses with his combination of strength and speed off the edge.
With his twin sister Jacqueline heading to Norman to play basketball for Sherri Coale, OU fans undoubtedly felt like they had the upper hand during the recruitment of Jeffcoat. The elite defensive end prospect was fairly quiet during his recruitment, keeping his options close to the vest and always maintaining that his relationship with his sister would not impact his decision.
As signing day neared, he chose the Longhorns.
Two years later, Jeffcoat is a member of multiple preseason watch lists after earning second-team All-Big 12 honors as a sophomore. He has started 15 of 21 career games and enters his junior season with 81 career tackles, including 27 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks.
Jeffcoat was one of Texas’ lone bright spots during its 55-17 loss to OU last season with four tackles, including two tackles for loss.
Linebacker Derrick Johnson, Waco, Texas/Waco, Class of 2001
Johnson spurned the Sooners, Baylor and others to play at Texas. And he became a star in Austin.
He earned the Bronco Nagurski (top defensive player) and Butkus Award (top linebacker) during his career. Johnson was a two-time All-American, two-time All-Big 12 first-teamer and 2004 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Johnson started 40 of 50 career games and finished with 458 tackles, including 65 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, 11 forced fumbles and nine interceptions. He created havoc for opposing offenses, from sideline-to-sideline, during his four-year career, becoming one of the top linebackers in UT history.
And even though Johnson never beat the Sooners, he was a nightmare for OU’s offense during his four Red River Rivalry battles. He had 49 tackles and two interceptions against the Sooners, forcing OU fans to leave the Cotton Bowl with a combination of emotions, meshing the joy of victory with a twinge of envy.