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An inside look at linebacker Eric Striker
Eric Striker didn’t know about Oklahoma’s rich linebacker heritage while growing up in Florida. It wasn’t until he arrived in Norman last year that he began to hear the stories and learn about former Sooner greats like Rod Shoate, George Cumby and Brian Bosworth.
Six games into his second season at OU, Striker knows all about those legendary players, as well as others.
“Those guys were for real, real serious back then,” said the 6-foot,
219-pound sophomore linebacker from Seffner, Fla. “Those guys never took a down off. They were hungry. You see linebackers all over the walls at this place, especially in our room. (Linebacker) Coach (Tim) Kish always reminds us of the guys who came before us. We pay homage to them.”
Striker — who just happens to own the perfect linebacker name — is working
hard to keep the Sooners’ tradition at the position alive. He’s been comparable
to a heat-seeking missile from the defensive edge, placing pressure on opposing
quarterbacks with great frequency.
Striker’s impact has no doubt made life a bit easier for defensive coordinator Mike Stoops this season.
“He just has a great knack for obviously getting that first step off the snap and the ability to change his body direction,” said Stoops.
“He’s lean, his ability to finish rushes, his athleticism and what he can do with his body is what you want by an outside rusher. He (creates) a lot of problems for tackles just because of his speed — he’s so quick getting off the football.”
Striker made his presence felt early and often in the Sooners’ memorable late September win at Notre Dame. On the game’s third play, his hit on Fighting Irish quarterback Tommy Rees led to Corey Nelson’s interception return for an OU touchdown.
Striker’s quickness has pestered opposing offenses all season, but he is the first to admit that he is just one of many players making plays for the Sooners.
“We’re all speed,” Striker said of the Oklahoma defense. “We’re all running around getting to the ball. We know what we’re doing. We’re communicating.”
Just getting to play brings a smile to Striker’s face. After spending the majority of his time on special teams last season, he has taken his game to a new level and it is paying dividends.
“The Kansas game was the only game I got in on defense,” Striker said last spring when
asked about the 2012 campaign. “I played the whole fourth quarter.”
The lack of playing time — as it is for most youngsters — is tough to deal with after a stellar high school career.
“It was a little frustrating as the season went on. In the beginning, I was like, ‘I still gotta work my way.’ That type of attitude,” said Striker. “But when you feel you’ve progressed, you get a little frustrated. I still had a positive attitude. I still wanted to go after it.”
For the most part, football has come easy for the young man who started at nose guard for his grade-school team. As Striker grew older, his talent grew and he started drawing interest from schools.
His goal wasn’t to play for one of his state’s major universities. Striker wasn’t interested in Florida, Florida State or Miami. He wanted to leave the Sunshine State.
Former defensive coordinator Brent Venables led OU’s recruiting charge. Striker committed to play at Oklahoma, but there were some anxious moments when Venables departed for Clemson right before signing day.
But any doubts were wiped away by new linebacker coach Tim Kish, who quickly built a relationship with Striker and kept the young man on board.
Striker’s fan base continues to be back in Florida. His biggest supporters are his mother, Liz Skelton, and father, Eric Striker. He also often hears from friends at home. After the Notre
Dame game, his cell phone blew up with text messages.
“They’re happy,” Striker said about his friends. “I keep them in my mind as I play also. I don’t forget where I come from. I hope they are happy and they see through me that I’m doing good things, not only on the field but off the field also.”
Bob Stoops mentions Striker weekly during media interviews.
“Eric is a very aggressive hard-playing guy that has a knack for making plays,” Stoops said earlier this season. “He put a lot of pressure on back there with his blitzes and chasing the ball down, tackling. He’s active.”
In addition to the aforementioned Sooner linebacker legends, there have been more recent outstanding careers turned in by guys like Rocky Calmus, Teddy Lehman and Travis Lewis at the position.
Striker wants to add his name to that memorable list of prolific Oklahoma linebackers.
“You want to keep that going. You don’t want anything to fall back,” said Striker. “You don’t want anything to be average. We want to keep it great here.”