On a crisp Saturday morning in March, crimson-and-cream-clad players invaded Owen Field as they worked their way through various offensive and defensive drills.
However, this group was not comprised of the usual Sooners. Instead, it included 200 women who attended the first Women’s Football Tee, presented by Integris.
The event gave the participants the opportunity to spend the day at the Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium learning the ins-and-outs of Sooner football. Additionally, the Bob Stoops Champions Foundations donated the proceeds of $20,000 from the event to the United Way of Norman.
“Just an appreciation for all the players do and to have a little better understanding of football,” said OU head coach Bob Stoops of what he hoped the women would take from the event. “It’s kind of Football 101. It’s for some for the women who don’t know all of the rules and to give them a better understanding, even if they know the basics of how the offense, defense and other aspects work.”
The day started with the women watching the end of the morning football practice, and cheers echoed throughout the stadium for the Sooners. Afterward, the women joined the team huddle before transforming into players themselves and learning various offensive and defensive drills at stations helmed by coaches and players.
At lunch, a panel of players, including Chuka Ndulue, Blake Bell, Trevor Knight, Ty Darlingon, Eric Striker and Sterling Shepard, answered questions for the women ranging from dealing with game day nerves to who has been the biggest influence on their lives.
The women spent the afternoon exploring more behind-the-scenes aspects of OU football, including a look at the locker and equipment rooms, even having the chance to try on jerseys, gloves, shoulder pads and helmets; visiting the strength and conditioning staff for some drills; and attending chalk talk with the coaches, where they were shown different aspects of plays.
Melissa Marler, a native of Shawnee, Okla., now lives in Phoenix, Ariz., and serves as president of the OU Club of Arizona. She attended the event with her mother and niece and said she saw the day as an opportunity to support Coach Stoops’ charity and also spend time with her family.
“I thought this was a wonderful event that Coach Stoops was doing,” Marler said. “I was six years old when I started coming to OU football games, and then I graduated from here, and I love to support the university any way I can.”
Marler, who was on the pom squad during the Barry Switzer era, received an extra surprise when the coach was on the sideline watching practice prior to the beginning of the clinic and was able to spend time catching up with him.
“It’s really wonderful to reconnect with my Sooner family, and it’s a thrill to be here and to continue to support the program,” Marler stated.
Several players helped show women drills at the various stations, including quarterback Baker Mayfield, who joked they saw a few prospects they might recruit in the future.
“It’s fun for everybody,” Mayfield expressed. “They get to learn a few tips and pointers that they are going to remember for a while, and it’s good for everybody to just have a great time.”
The chance to spend a day as a Sooner football player was a unique one, and for Patti Otto of Norman, Okla., she enjoyed this opportunity to learn what the team does on a daily basis.
“It seems like all of these ladies are big fans, so I think it’s important that we feel like we are part of the program,” Otto said. “Many of us are longtime season ticket holders, and now we feel like we are kind of part of the team.”