Alamo Bowl ends long wait for Oklahoma State's Mayes

Saturday, December 25th 2004, 11:18 am
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ Growing up in Ohio, Sam Mayes had a childhood full of dreams about playing for Ohio State. That all changed when the words ``walk on'' slapped him in the face.

With a chip on his shoulder, Mayes spent the last five years waiting for his chance to show the Buckeyes he idolized what they were missing. Just when it looked like he wouldn't get that opportunity, the Alamo Bowl made its selection.

Mayes' Oklahoma State team will play the 24th-ranked Buckeyes on Wednesday in a game Mayes is sure to remember.

``For the last five years, I've been looking at that schedule thinking they've got to pop up sooner or later,'' Mayes said. ``I'm going to get my chance, and it's the last game of my career.''

Mayes, 22, was born in North Carolina, but his football foundations and style came in Ohio.

``Football in Ohio and Pennsylvania is like Texas, but more serious,'' said Mayes, a 6-foot-3, 330-pound offensive guard. ``It is crazy. Little kids are six months old and they're throwing footballs in the crib. I'm dead serious.

``You don't do anything unless you play football in Ohio. That's how I grew up and everyone wants to play for Ohio State. Everyone wants to represent the state.''

Mayes played high-school football at Austintown (Ohio) Fitch High School and was an honorable mention all-state selection his senior year. He went to several Ohio State football camps in hopes of earning a scholarship. That's where his Ohio State dreams ended and others began.

``At the end of the camp, I was told I would be a preferred walk-on,'' Mayes said. ``I was like, 'Yeah, that's gonna happen.' I have a lot of schools offering me scholarships and I'm going to walk on here?

``It kind of hurt my feelings a little bit.''

So, the same kid who met with Eddie George and Orlando Pace in the Buckeyes' locker room instead went to the school where Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas started their careers.

Once in Stillwater, Mayes developed into the sturdiest lineman on the nation's eighth-best rushing attack. Behind Mayes _ a third-team All-American selection _ and his fellow linemen, the Cowboys averaged 245 yards on the ground this season.

``I couldn't be happier with my decision,'' Mayes said.

Mayes said he expects Ohio State to bring the same smashmouth running style that the Cowboys take into the Alamo Bowl.

``The thing I don't think they're ready for is the fact that we're going to play same football down here at a much faster pace,'' Mayes said.

``I think it's going to be a little bit of a challenge for them to deal with some of the speed we have. It's going to be difficult for some of the smaller guys to deal with some of the size they have.''

But matchups could pale to Mayes' pure desire to play _ and beat _ the Buckeyes. The senior said the only thing better than beating Ohio State would be winning the national championship.

``I'm going to completely cut everything loose,'' Mayes said. ``I will be running my mouth and doing more things that you've never seen me do on a football field. It's going to be a great time.''