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Boomer Bio: Fred Strong
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Sooner receiver has made an impact
As the number of highly recruited receivers committed to the University of Oklahoma continued to grow, Fred Strong could almost see his window of opportunity narrowing by the minute. But the 6-foot-1 sophomore from Austin never stopped believing in himself or his ability, and after a good spring and some position changes by other players, he managed to work his way up the depth chart and has eventually become a fixture in the receiving game.
â€śIâ€™ve come a pretty long way,â€ť said Strong, who hauled in eight passes for 73 yards in OUâ€™s first three games of 2006. â€śThe previous years, I was more of a role player, helping out the first string defense by being on the scout team. Just trying to get myself better and watching the other players on offense. Seeing what it was like.
â€ś(Having) the experience of watching them out there made me want to play even more.â€ť
After red-shirting as a true freshman, Strong might have had the opportunity to make an impact last season, if injuries had not slowed his progress before he even got that chance.
â€śDuring two-a-days, I tore my quad muscle,â€ť Strong said. â€śI never really fully recovered from that. By the time I got healthy later in the season, thatâ€™s when Manuel (Johnson), Malcolm (Kelly) and Juaquin (Iglesias) really emerged. So there was no room for me.â€ť
Still, he was undeterred. And because of his consistency and effort in practice, Strong has been rewarded this season. In the season-opening win over Alabama-Birmingham, he had three receptions for 37 yards, and he followed that up a week later with four receptions for 45 yards against Washington.
After waiting more than two years to finally show OU fans what he can do, Strong is making the most of his opportunity. No rookie jitters for this kid.
â€śMy first game, I was kind of surprised when I went out there,â€ť he said. â€śI was concentrating so hard on making that first catch. Once I got that first catch out of the way, it was like being out there for practice. Everything came so natural and easy.â€ť
Now that Strong is playing a key role in the offense, he looks for help from the guys he was once competing with for a spot on the depth chart.
â€śIâ€™m close with all of those guys, and they let me know what it was like out there. So once I got in there this year, I was asking those guys for advice and they helped me out a lot,â€ť Strong explained. â€śThey let me know what to expect and what the D-backs might be doing. They are a big part of my success and why Iâ€™m out there.â€ť
Kelly has seen first-hand the strides that Strong has made over the last year.
â€śI think the biggest improvement Fred has made is just the confidence he has in himself,â€ť Kelly said. â€śHe talks a little bit to the defensive backs in practice. He talks some noise. I think that meant he had confidence in himself to go out and make plays. Once he got that chance to get on the field and make a play, he did.
â€śLast year, things just didnâ€™t unfold right for him. Later in the season, they moved him over from scout team. Heâ€™s been a different player. Since then, heâ€™s shined.â€ť
Early on, Strong watched and listened to former OU receiver Will Peoples, who was in a similar situation â€” a good receiver playing in the shadow of several other talented receivers.
â€śWhen I came here my first year, I actually looked up to Will a lot. We are from the same area in Texas,â€ť Strong said. â€śHe was a really good receiver, and I always thought he could be the No. 1 guy for any team in the nation. He told me to never get down no matter what other guys do, and the harder you work in practice, the more it pays off on Saturday.â€ť
With everything Strong has been through to this point, heâ€™s knows not to take anything for granted. The 20-year-old has waited and worked to earn a spot in the rotation and now that heâ€™s there, heâ€™s even hungrier to help the Sooners win.
â€śI just pushed myself harder and harder to get where I am now,â€ť he said. â€śNow Iâ€™m out there having so much fun, making every catch that comes to me, trying to run somebody over or making a block for (Adrian Peterson).
â€śIâ€™m just having a good time out there.â€ť
And playing well.