If not for a day at a local park, the Sooners might not be defending a Big 12 Championship.
At 13, OU junior Nick Papac’s attention was directed mainly towards soccer. However, it took just one day at the corner of 24th and Robinson for the Norman, Okla., native to change focus.
“I just went out to Westwood randomly to play tennis one day with my friends,” Papac said. “It just took off and I never really looked back. It was something that I really enjoyed and it was something that when I got on a tennis court nothing else mattered.”
Papac had always been a Sooner fan and he knew one day he wanted to play at OU. However, life made his path a longer distance. Papac spent his high school years in Fresno, Calif., where Fresno State offered him a tennis scholarship. He spent one year on the Bulldogs’ roster, but never lost the itch to return home.
“I enjoyed my time at Fresno, but transferring to OU was something I knew I always wanted to do. I knew that I always wanted to come home and be apart of this program.”
Since returning home, Papac has been apart of some monumental moments in OU tennis history. In 2013, Papac was a part of the doubles point that led to the Sooners’ clinching their second straight Big 12 Championship. Though he’ll never forget that moment, Papac admits nothing will ever top OU reaching No. 1 in 2014.
“There’s been a couple of big moments, but nothing tops being ranked No. 1. I really don’t think anything will ever top that.”
Maybe one thing: Papac, along with the rest of the roster believe that this team is capable of winning the national championship.
“Nothing will top that, except for winning the NCAA Championship. And I know this team can do it. These guys are the most competitive group I’ve ever been around and this team hates to lose. When you combine everything with the work ethic that we have, that’s why we can.”
Not only does he credit the team, but Papac firmly believes without OU’s coaching staff, the team wouldn’t be anywhere near where it is today.
“Playing for Coach Roddick has been an amazing experience. Everyday Coach Roddick makes sure we know what we’re working on, it’s never a generic practice. He’s shown us day in and day out what it means to work hard and reach our goals.”
Papac has two years left in Norman and once he’s done, he wants to give professional tennis a shot. If it doesn’t work out, he says he can only hope to be as good a coach to future kids as Roddick was to him.
I hope to be a coach just like he is,” Papac explained. “Both he and assistant coach Bo Hodge have contributed so much to who I am not only as a player but as a person, too. Hopefully someday, I can have the same influence.”
Papac and the Sooners next travel I-44 to face the Tulsa Golden Hurricane Sunday, April 6, at 2 p.m.