We're unveiling a series that highlights how unique "Sooner Saturdays" are at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. We'll hear from a wide variety of individuals who play a part in making "Sooner Saturdays" one of the most unique experiences in all of sports. Our first perspective came from Jay Norvell.
NORMAN, Okla.-- Zack Hedrick served as the drum major for The Pride of Oklahoma from 2011-12. Countless individuals make "Sooner Saturdays" at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium truly one of the most unique experiences in all of sports. There's only one drum major at OU and Zack knows that there is only ONE Oklahoma!
"Game day starts very early for The Pride depending on the game time," Hedrick explained. "For a 2:30 p.m. kickoff, we're having rehearsal at 6 a.m. If it's a little later, we might push it back an hour or two to where we're rehearsing at 8 a.m. in the morning. So it easily turns into an 18 or 19-hour day for us. We rehearse and then we usually get some time off to get a bite to eat. That's usually when I start preparing and getting in the mindset of what's going on, looking at the game flow. Also, throughout the entire morning I'm stretching - you want to make the strut look good, I guess. A lot of people would be disappointed if it didn't.
"From there, game day starts for us with the pregame concert and parade up on the North Oval," he continued. "That's when we get to unveil The Pride for the weekend. Sooner fans get to see all the work they've put in during the week and it's finally showcased for the first time. Parading to the stadium is like a big party. Everybody's cheering and getting ready for the game. That first down beat of the snare drum is when football season starts and the pregame show starts. It's a lot of fun. Preparing for that in the tunnel I'm stretching; a buddy of mine is helping me to stretch out. All the work beforehand is done during the summer and physically during practice and everything like that. After pregame it's a whirlwind. Everything goes by so quick in the blink of an eye."
Players and coaches are pouring blood, sweat and tears out onto the field. But "Sooner Saturdays" encompass much more than first downs and OU victories. It's the Sooner Schooner and The Pride of Oklahoma. It's the intro video and Sooner Magic. It's 86 straight sellouts, every game of the Bob Stoops' era to be precise. It's yelling "Boomer Sooner" at the top of your lungs and learning what it means to Cheer Like a Champion.
Outside of OU players, Hedrick has been one of a select few individuals who know exactly what it feels like to have over 85,000 sets of eyes fixated on him as he strutted across Owen Field.
"It's definitely a rush," Hedrick said of marching in front of a packed stadium. "They're definitely not paying attention to me the whole time, thankfully, but definitely for those first 25 yards they're solely fixed on you. It's an adrenaline rush, for sure. To be a part of that tradition and to carry that on and be just a small part of that is really special. The greatest thing is when The Pride runs out and everybody cheers; the first down beat and note of Oklahoma, there's nothing else like it in all of college football.
"It's hard to put into words how to describe it because it transcends yourself, for sure," he said of the experience. "It goes so much more beyond that because it's all the people before me who were drum major, they made it what it is today. It's evolved from the first time it was done to what it is today. Everyone has their own personal touch on it, but in essence it's the same strut and it's iconic. It's The Pride's official logo and it's definitely something that's very recognizable throughout the university. Oklahoma, with it being so rich in tradition from the football team to the academic side to the university, there's so many things that represent OU as a symbol. To be one of those individuals is an honor and very unique."
"Sooner Saturdays" actually begin with the modern-day land run for prime tailing spots on Fridays. Tents are set up starting at noon the day before the game and campus comes alive with activity well before players make their final preparations in the locker room.
When fans arrive in Norman, they pass through a sea of tailgaters and fans. From Campus Corner to the Lloyd Noble Center, the breadth of excitement travels far and wide across Norman. TVs are on and grills are fired up, and no matter how early kickoff is, there is likely a refreshing beverage in a nearby cooler. And of course, all of the OU loyalists are sporting their favorite shades of Crimson and Cream.
Closer to the stadium, the sounds of The Pride resonate throughout various pregame events. The beat of OU's marching band echoes off the statues at Heisman Park and entertains fans well before The Pride enters the stadium for their pregame and halftime shows.
Once inside the stadium, and after you've sung along to "Boomer Sooner," "Oklahoma" and the OU Chant, it's time for the intro video. The much-anticipated video is played right before the team enters the field. It signals that it's almost game time. No Sooner football game is complete without it. Goosebumps and wows are sure to ensue as the film hits its crescendo: "There's Only ONE Oklahoma!"
The team exits the locker room and walks down the tunnel. The stadium gets louder and louder, as the Sooners prepare to touch the historic turf of Owen Field. Then it happens, and you can't hear yourself think. The players run onto the field with flags celebrating the seven national titles proudly waving. They jump and touch a banner with a simple, yet powerful slogan: "Play Like a Champion."
With seven national championships and 44 conference titles, plenty of Sooners have played like champions on this hallowed field before.
Both teams are on the field, and 15 to 20 "Boomer!" and "Sooner!" chants later, it's time for kickoff. Sure, the visiting team might be a little intimidated, but that's all part of the equation. And typically, there are millions of other fans watching on television whose pulses might quicken just a little, as well.
The OU Spirit Squad, Ruf/Neks and Pride of Oklahoma lead the OU fans and students in cheers throughout the game, creating an endless stream of excitement and energy.
When the Sooners score, one of college football's most unique traditions commences. Powered by two white horses, the Sooner Schooner exits the northeast tunnel and races across the field in celebration. Driven by the Ruf/Neks, this uniquely OU conestoga has traveled across Owen Field ever since 1964.
With another OU victory in the books, "Sooner Saturday" likely isn't complete without some form of postgame celebration as Oklahoma Football fans look forward to the next game and their next opportunity to participate in one of the most colorful and vibrant home atmospheres in college football.
There's only ONE Oklahoma! There's only ONE "Sooner Saturday!"
OU inspires champions today and prepares leaders for tomorrow by enabling its student-athletes to achieve their highest academic, athletic and personal aspirations. The OU Athletics Department sponsors 21 varsity sports with more than 600 student-athletes and is completely self-supporting.
Sooner Sports Properties, LLC, is the multimedia rights holder for athletics at the University of Oklahoma. Sooner Sports Properties is a joint venture of Learfield Communications, Renda Broadcasting and Griffin Television.