Oklahoma receiver Jalen Saunders has spent his final two seasons in Norman, Okla. after beginning his career at Fresno State. The senior leads OU with 44 receptions for 520 yards and five touchdowns. His game-breaking ability was on display in the Sooners' 48-10 victory over Iowa State last Saturday as his 91-yard punt return sparked an OU win. He was Big 12 Co-Special Teams Player of the Week.
He talked with ESPN.com this week about the differences in playing at OU and Fresno State, his ties with the current Bulldogs and what he's learned during his time in Norman:
When you came to Oklahoma from California when did it kind of hit you, "I’m not on the West Coast anymore?"
As soon as I landed. I could tell by the humidity; it was something that was really different, of course. You know you’re definitely outside of California.
Was it a culture shock? How was the transition?
It felt like more of a football environment as soon as I touched down in Oklahoma. It was definitely different than California football. I just love it out here.
When you look back on your two years, what was the best part about being a football player at Oklahoma?
You never know how much it means to people who are cheering for OU. I really noticed that in my first season playing and how many people support us. I played for a great team and great people, it’s one of those things in life where you have to appreciate what was given to you.
What is the biggest difference between the two places you’ve played in college?
The conference play is very different and the football atmosphere is completely different. It’s hard to explain it, but if you went to a Fresno game it’s totally different than a OU game. Nothing against Fresno -- I loved playing for them and Pat Hill -- but I came here after he left because some situations had come up [Saunders was cleared to play immediately at OU because of a medical condition) so I’m really happy with the opportunity [OU coach Bob] Stoops gave me here.
Do you keep up with Fresno?
I still have friends on the team. Me and Derek Carr and a couple of their receivers I I grew up with, Josh Harper and Isaiah Burse, those were my two roommates during freshman and sophomore year. We were really tight. I still keep in touch with them. We talk every week about twice a week.
So it feels good to see them have so much success this year?
Definitely. I’m never against anyone. I always like to see them get what they want to accomplish.
What has been the best advice you’ve received since coming to OU?
I’ve heard a lot of different things. Coach Jay [Norvell], my senior year, he’s been harping on me being a leader and doing things the right way. I love the direction he’s pointed me in. He’s helped me down the right path and I really appreciate it.
What do you want your legacy to be?
The toughness I brought to the receiver room this year and last year. A lot of people look at me different because of my size. I always told everyone I would play like I have the biggest heart on the field.
What are your career goals after leaving OU?
My thing was always to get a degree. The school is paying for my education, so I wanted to get my degree and my mom has been on my back about that since I was five years old. I always told her I wanted to play pro football and she told me I’m not going to allow you to play pro football if you don’t get your degree. That’s the first thing first: Get my degree. If the NFL gives me a chance, I’ll take that opportunity.
Is there any one thing you want people to know as you leave OU?
I loved OU since the day I took my visit. A lot of greats came from this school. OU will always be OU. They’ll always have this legacy.