Oklahoma State football was the only Big 12 Conference program without a public forum to celebrate its legends.
But that will end on Saturday when the program unveils its Ring of Honor, with the first entry into the NFL Hall of Fame running behind Thurman Thomas, the program’s career leader.
Legendary running back who started before eventual Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders is looking at the creation of the Ring of Honor not just as a way to recognize greats like him – and probably Sanders very soon.
Instead, treat the Ring as an olive branch.
It has long been a point of contention around Oklahoma State football of a disconnect for older players in the Mike Gundy era.
And Thomas hopes it will change with aspects like the Ring of Honor.
“When they told me I was going to be the first to get on a ring of honor, you know, it really hit me,” Thomas said. “It really hit me hard that ‘OK, I’ll be first, but what do I do with this?’ I’m going to get there and, you know what, I’m going to start reuniting the university, I’m going to start doing a lot more to make Oklahoma State first. And I hope the guys who follow me will continue to do the same thing I’m doing.
The former Buffalo Bills legend said that if COVID-19 hadn’t limited capacity at Boone Pickens Stadium he would have expected many of his former teammates to be in the stadium to see him be the first recognized Cowboy football player in a public forum within BPS.
But it’s all generations of former Cowboys that Thomas wants to see take a more active role as program ambassadors.
He commented on how he has never been able to interact with recent greats like Dez Bryant or Justin Blackmon, and is confident that even the most recent legends begin to merge with the Cowboy football fraternity.
“I’ve never really had the opportunity or the chance to meet or get to know them,” said Thomas. “But I want to see a lot more of those players and so I think when they keep doing it you will see more and more players, reach out because, as I said, I am contacting as many players as I can.”
Thomas has not only been a Cowboy football ambassador via social media, but more a cheerleader for all of Oklahoma State’s sports programs.
In recent years, she has been tweeting support for a wide range of programs, such as when Samantha Show and the Cowgirl softball team raced at the Women’s College World Series and more recently cheered former Cowboy golfer Matthew Wolff, who was the leader in the final round of the US Open (where he finished second).
“He pays attention to things, and he’s really proud of where he went to school in college,” said Oklahoma State wrestling coach John Smith, who added Thomas has participated in several national wrestling championships to support the Cowboys. . “… The great state of Oklahoma and the great university we all went to have done a lot for all of us. And I think Thurman, on many occasions, has said how special it was for him to have gone to school here. “
However, going to school at Oklahoma State almost didn’t happen.
Growing up in Texas, Thomas dreamed of playing for the Texas Longhorns – or even Texas A&M – and visited top state programs prior to his visit to the state of Oklahoma.
Longhorns were at the top of the list because he was a diehard Earl Campbell fan.
But according to the USO legend, there was one thing the Texas teams were unwilling to give in and that immediately put the state of Oklahoma in line for its services.
None of the programs across the Red River wanted him as a tailback, instead they wanted the 5-foot 9 athlete to play defensive.
“I get to the state of Oklahoma and Jimmy Johnson takes me aside and says,” Hey, look, I heard Texas want you to play defensive and maybe Texas A&M. “I said, ‘Yeah coach. run back, ‘”Thomas said.” And he said,’ Well, I’ll tell you one thing, if you come here, you’ll be number six in the depth chart and you can have 34 (jersey), but that’s where we’re going. ‘
“I was like, I don’t want to go to a place where they’ll just give me a job. He said I was going to be their sixth tailback, so that meant I had five other guys ahead of me and I had to catch them. And so when I found out, you know, I said before I left, “I’m making a commitment, I’m coming to the state of Oklahoma.”
And shortly after his engagement in the state of Oklahoma, he was tested again.
Not long after verbally engaging with Johnson, the Cowboys head coach escaped Stillwater to take over the University of Miami, where he won a national championship in Thomas’ senior year at Oklahoma State.
“It was very nice until my mom asked Jimmy, ‘Will you be staying here four years with my son? And Jimmy promised he’d be there four years, “said Thomas.” And two weeks later he left and went to the University of Miami, and my mom still, to this day, can’t stand Jimmy Johnson. … changed it at all. I made a commitment to the state of Oklahoma, they made a commitment to me. “
It obviously worked well for both Thomas and Oklahoma State.
Thomas was part of a team that delivered the program’s first 10-win season and went on to be an NFL Hall of Famer, making four Super Bowl appearances with the Buffalo Bills.
And now he will make history again when he is the first to enter the Ring of Honor with his alma mater playing against the same team he last played against – West Virginia – with the Cowboys wearing replica uniforms of his latest. game.
“To get him to wear that shirt – that shirt is in my basement, you know, and I went down the other day to look at it like, ‘Wow, they’re going to wear the exact same shirts I played in my last soccer game against West Virginia.’ “Thomas said.” And I’m like, ‘Wow!’ So for me it was really awesome, but I think all the guys who will wear this shirt on Saturday remember what kind of game it was. I wore that shirt and we won the Sun Bowl against West Virginia, so it’s a very special man to see him and my family can’t wait to do it. “