Throughout the year, it has been the dream for junior college wide receiver Courtney Gardner to play at Oklahoma.
But now Gardner is going in another direction. Gardner confirmed Monday afternoon his plans are no longer to play for the Sooners but to enter the 2013 NFL draft.
“As of right now, that’s what it’s looking like,” Gardner said. “Me and OU weren’t on the same page, and it didn’t look like I would be able to be at OU by January.”
There has been no question about his ability on the field, but the academic concerns have been a constant battle for Gardner, who is 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds.
Gardner originally committed to Arkansas before flipping to OU on national signing day in February. He knew he had a lot of work to do in the classroom before he could ever see the field for the Sooners. He tried his best, but in July he realized it probably wasn’t going to happen for the 2012 season.
So Gardner was forced to stay another semester at Sierra Community College in Roseville, Calif. He is taking two classes and thought everything was going fine. But he said he was recently dropped out of his English class because of financial issues. He said he was told his fees weren’t paid for in the class so he was dropped.
Gardner has been in constant communication with OU receivers coach Jay Norvell throughout this process. And when Gardner told Norvell it didn’t look like he could reach OU by January, Norvell said it probably wasn’t going to work out with Gardner and OU.
“We came to an agreement. I understand and have nothing bad to say,” Gardner said. “Coach Norvell had a lot of positive words for me. He coached in the NFL. He knows how much I have dreamed about playing in the NFL, and he believes I can get there.”
Norvell coached wide receivers and tight ends for the Indianapolis Colts and Oakland Raiders from 1998-2003.
Gardner said he first started to realize things between him and OU weren’t 100 percent a couple of weeks ago. Gardner was hopeful he could make another visit to OU for the Sooners’ showdown against Notre Dame.
The day he was set to leave for Norman, Norvell notified Gardner he could not make the trip because he had already taken an official visit to OU.
After talking to Norvell and his friends and family Sunday, Gardner decided the NFL draft might be his best option as he will be three years removed since graduating high school.
“I’ve been looking at this draft for a while,” Gardner said. “I feel like I can fit in with this year’s receiving class. It’s time to go forward.”
Gardner hasn’t ruled out a change in plans. He said a lot can happen between now and signing day, but he believes the NFL draft is his best option. He had 1,100 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns for Sierra CC in 2011.
“I’ve seen Coach Norvell like six or seven times and talked to him many more times than that,” Gardner said. “He’s behind me. My family is behind me.
“I know it sounds like a longshot. I have a lot of upside with my size and speed. It’s going to be about impressing the scouts. They can take a look at my juco film and then what they see in person, and we’ll see what happens.”
Regardless if Gardner ends up in the draft or not, one thing he wants everybody to know is he has nothing negative to say about Norvell, OU or its fans.
“It’s still Boomer Sooner for me,” Gardner said. “I have nothing against OU. I wish best of lucky to Landry [Jones] and Kenny [Stills] and the coaching staff that I got to know during my time there. Everything happens for a reason. Now we’ll have to see what’s next.”