An Oklahoma Flavor
Though Texans Compose Most Of North Texas' Roster, Several Key Oklahomans Feature
DENTON - While Texas makes up the base of the melting pot that is Mean Green football, it’s important not to forget a dash of Oklahoma.
There are 120 players on the North Texas football team. Just nine of them hail from the state of Oklahoma, equaling a 10th of those who call the Lone Star State home.
“I think it’s a flavor that most people may not understand and that only we from Oklahoma can understand,” junior defensive back Ashton Preston, from Edmond, Oklahoma, said.
But what is that flavor? And what does it add to the pot? The consensus is pride, but it goes deeper than that. When you make up a small minority on the team, there’s built-in chemistry just based on your hometown.
“When you see another player going to North Texas or see guys that are already there from Oklahoma, you kind of already know them,” sophomore quarterback Mason Fine (Locust Grove, Oklahoma) said.
“It’s a close knit area, so a lot of us are really close to each other before we even get here,” Preston said. “Even if we may not necessarily know each other too well, we have that relationship.”
“We know how each other grew up,” senior kicker Trevor Moore (Edmond, Oklahoma) said. “We know what each other’s high school lives were like. It’s easier to relate.”
Those inherent bonds are seen out on the practice field, such as when players throw up an “O” with their hands after one of their fellow Oklahomans make a big play.
“We want to show out for Oklahoma kids down here in Texas,” Fine said. “We always want to prove to the Texas guys that the Oklahoma guys can play too.”
The Oklahoma flavor on the team was even showcased in this year’s quarterback competition between Fine and redshirt junior Quinn Shanbour (Oklahoma City).
“Mason and I joke that if they bring any Texas quarterback out here, we’ll still beat them out,” Shanbour said.
In addition to Fine, three other Oklahoma natives have starting roles in 2017, including Moore, Preston and sophomore wide receiver Rico Bussey, Jr. (Lawton, Oklahoma) While Shanbour was not named the starting quarterback, he and Moore play a valuable role as members of the team’s Leadership Council.
“It’s nice having a vital role on the team and being able to say ‘we’re from Oklahoma, not Texas,’” Moore said. “It brings pride to the state.”
However, high school football is king in Texas. So before they even get on campus, the Oklahoma players feel pressured to make an impact on a program in the Lone Star State.
“We have to prove ourselves automatically just because of where we’re from,” Preston said.
“To an extent, Texas football is probably better than Oklahoma football,” Moore said, “but there’s definitely a lot of talent up in Oklahoma.”
“No one’s ever going to beat us easily,” Shanbour said. “No one’s going to out-tough us.”
In addition to the faction of players from Oklahoma, North Texas is led out on to the field by head coach Seth Littrell, a Muskogee, Oklahoma, native.
“He’s the ‘Okie from Muskogee,’ Shanbour said, referencing the famous Merle Haggard tune.
“He has that grit,” Moore said, “and, being from Oklahoma, we all have that grit.”
“He’s always joking with guys about the whole Oklahoma thing and us talking a little country sometimes,” Preston said.
Littrell, who captained the 2000 Oklahoma Sooners national championship squad, wears that toughness and Oklahoma pride on his sleeve. But something he actually wears that shows it is a pair of snakeskin boots.
“You can’t mess with him with those on,” Shanbour said.
Whether the Texans like it or not, the success of this year’s team has roots in their little brother to the north. The Oklahoma natives came down here with something to prove, and Fine summed it up in four words.
“Oklahoma football is something.”