Originally Published: Dec 18, 2009 4:43 PM CDT
STANFORD, California -- Just a few days before Stanford received an invitation to play Oklahoma in the Sun Bowl, Cardinal center Chase Beeler almost left his room in a Sooners T-shirt.
Called out by a teammate, Beeler quickly put on a sweatshirt to hide the infraction.
Beeler should be forgiven for his fashion faux pas, considering he grew up immersed in Oklahoma football and spent one season with the Sooners before transferring to Stanford.
"You can't avoid it anywhere you go," Beeler said of the impact of Sooners football on a kid growing up in Oklahoma. "On a Saturday, you'll either be hit in the face with an Oklahoma game or an Oklahoma State game. It's just part of the history. You pick it up in grade school. It's part of the textbook practically."
Now Beeler will get an unexpected chance to play his former team when No. 19 Stanford (8-4) takes on Oklahoma (7-5) in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31.
Beeler has been hearing some trash talk from friends back home ever since the bids were announced Dec. 6. He has also been inundated with ticket requests from family members who love the Sooners, but also want to see Beeler play.
Beeler got the maximum 20 tickets for his mother to distribute and figures that he'll have close to 30 family members at the game in El Paso, Texas. He has had to lay down a few ground rules for his family members come game day.
"I don't want any OU paraphernalia externally visible," he said. "If they want to wear something underneath like some OU boxers or an OU T-shirt or something like that, that's fine. I won't have any way of verifying this but no cheering for OU either. Silent under the bleachers clapping maybe, but that's it."
Beeler had a difficult decision coming out of Jenks High School just outside of Tulsa, Okla. He was torn between staying home to play for Oklahoma or going to Stanford.
The choice was so tough that Beeler said he didn't finalize it until seeing members of his extended family outside the school gymnasium where he made his signing day announcement.
"It was a very stressful, difficult decision that took a lot of deliberation and a lot of discussion between me and my family about where they and I thought I should end up and what my trajectory should be in life," Beeler said. "I was at Oklahoma for a year and felt like that wasn't really the direction I wanted to head."
Beeler said Oklahoma just wasn't the right "fit" academically and socially so he decided to transfer to Stanford before the 2007 season. When he made the decision he never thought he'd have to play against his old team, much less in a bowl game.
The Sooners could have used Beeler this season after losing three offensive linemen to season-ending injuries, including centers Brody Eldridge and Ben Habern. Brian Lepak, Oklahoma's third starting center of the season, will handle the snaps in the bowl game.
"We're happy for Chase, for his experience out there and for what he's doing," Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. "I'm sure it's been a very rewarding and great experience for him."
Beeler has played a key role in Stanford's success this season, anchoring an offensive line that helped Toby Gerhart lead the nation in yards rushing and touchdowns on the ground on the way to being a Heisman Trophy runner-up.
He also has an extra role as a scout in bowl preparation.
"He knows some of those guys across the ball," quarterback Tavita Pritchard said. "He helps out the linemen with tendencies of those guys on the d-line and front seven."
Beeler keeps in touch with only a few players at Oklahoma, as many of his former teammates are no longer around. He talks occasionally to quarterback Sam Bradford, who is out with a shoulder injury, and also trades text messages occasionally with Sooners star defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. But as soon as the bowl bids were announced, Beeler went into "radio silence."
Beeler worked against McCoy often during his one year with the Sooners and will call on that experience come game day.
"I've tried to cull that knowledge from the depths to see if it might help in the game," he said. "Both of us have come a long ways since that time. He has an incredible amount of raw talent which is obvious to anyone who just glances at the film. It will be a challenge."
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