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Jamell Fleming Q&A
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Sooner defensive back talks about a number of key topics
Since arriving at Oklahoma as part of the 2007 recruiting class, Jamell Fleming has had an interesting career, to say the least. As a youngster, Fleming was seen as one of the most promising young players in the OU secondary. But an academic issue temporarily derailed Flemingís career, costing him a semester on the team.
Fleming, however, has since buckled down and not only earned a spot back on the roster, but heís become one of the top cover-corners in the Big 12.
Sooner Spectator recently spoke with Fleming about the ups and downs of his young career and his steady play this season.
Sooner Spectator: When you look back on everything you've gone through here at OU, what stands out the most?
Jamell Fleming: Just the hard work. Iíve tried to pursue my goals and the teamís goals. I just try to make myself a better person.
SS: Leaving the team to focus on your academics, was that the toughest part of your football career up to this point?
Fleming: Yeah. Not being able to be around the team and be here at OU, that was pretty rough. Iím just glad to be back.
SS: Did you ever have doubts that maybe you werenít going to get back, or did that ever run through your mind?
Fleming: Not really. I always thought I was going to come back and change and be a better student and a better athlete.
SS: Was that a wake up call?
Fleming: Yeah. Everybody goes through ups and downs, and mine were just a little different than other peopleís.
SS: Itís taken you a little longer to win a starting job at Oklahoma, but this season, there are so many young guys making an impact. Do you ever feel like pulling those guys aside and telling them not to take their early success for granted?
Fleming: Yes, especially the defensive backs we got in this year. All of them are pretty talented, and I always tell them to keep their heads up, especially when stuff is not going their way. The next day could be brighter, so I just tell them to enjoy their moment and to enjoy playing.
SS: Has going through some struggles made you a better person?
Fleming: Definitely, because it shows you what youíre missing out on, and it shows you that stuff can happen to you, but you can always bounce back.
SS: You lead the nation in pass breakups. Are you aware of that stat?
Fleming: Coach (Stoops) actually said something about it at one game. He whispered it to me, but I havenít really looked at it on the Internet or anything on it.
SS: He also told you that you should have more interceptions, didnít he?
Fleming: Yeah. Thatís what he was saying. He was saying it was cool with the breakups, but if I could turn them into interceptions, that would be even better.
SS: When look back at plays youíve made when youíre studying film, are you upset when you donít come down with some of those interceptions?
Fleming: Everybody wants to get the interception instead of the pass breakup. Itís better to get interceptions and get a couple more points than the pass breakup. It also gives you more momentum in the game.
SS: Missing the Texas game with a sprained ankle had to be really tough on you?
Fleming: That was probably the worst, not being able to play in that game, especially with us winning, it even hurts worse. I was like, ĎDang, I wish I could have experienced some of that and playing in the game.í
SS: It probably didnít diminish the feeling afterward?
Fleming: No. Youíre happy with the (win). But itís different when youíre not playing.
SS: As a defensive back, you guys have to have a short-term memory. Can you talk about the mindset and having that as a part of your personality as a cornerback?
Fleming: Itís kind of hard. You never want to give up a big play or any play, even if itís a two-yard play. Coaches work with you and try and get you to stop thinking about it and to move on to the next play, but itís always tough.
SS: Youíve had an interesting career because Coach Stoops has been your position coach for so long, and now you have Willie Martinez as a new coach. Whatís it been like going through the transition to Coach Martinez?
Fleming: Itís not too different because Coach Wright is still over there with the defensive line, so heís still with us. We can hear his voice. Coach Martinez is a great coach and heís real rounded and he understands where we come from because he played defense too. He understands us and what we go through.
SS: Itís seemed unique to have Coach Stoops as your head coach and position coach. Is it kind of cool because you get to know him better than most players do?
Fleming: Oh yeah. You get to sit in his office and listen to him talk and listen about his schemes and his thoughts. Itís always good.
SS: Why do you think this defense hasn't played as well on the road as it has at home?
Fleming: Iím not really sure. I think a lot has to do with the crowd getting more into it. I think we try as hard as we can and we prepare just as much. Thereís not really a clear-cut answer to that.
SS: How do you focus on improving?
Fleming: Just doing better at practice and eliminating the big plays when you go on the road. Thatís one of the biggest things we try to do.
SS: Going back to the fall or even the spring, what was it that made you realize you really could be a starter on this defense?
Fleming: We had a couple of spring scrimmages before the spring game, and I did well. Then in the spring game, I did well in that atmosphere because it did seem like a game. We picked our own teams and all that stuff and when I did well in that game. That gave me a lot of confidence coming into this season.
SS: Everyone always talks about you being one of the most athletic guys on the team. Has it always been that way with you?
Fleming: I was always the more athletic kid when I was playing. At this level, everybody is fast and everybody is quick, and you just have to keep working trying to stay ahead of everybody.
SS: When you go up against a guy like Ryan Broyles in practice, is it obvious that he knows so much more than everyone else about playing that position?
Fleming: He has great hands. Thatís one thing about him. He catches the ball. Thatís something a lot of people donít talk about. When the ball comes, he catches the ball. He finds ways to hold on the ball whenever it is near his hands.
SS: With the departure of starters Brian Jackson and Dominique Franks, did you guys come into this season wanting to prove the defense wasnít going to have a drop off?
Fleming: We wanted to step in and we wanted to play. Thatís why we came here and it really wasnít a big deal about them leaving. You always want to out-do someone. B-Jack and Dom are great players and great athletes and they knew the position better than we did. We just respect them.
(This Q&A appears in the Nov. 25 issue of Sooner Spectator. To read more, subscribe today by calling 1-877-841-8877)