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OU's Calvin Thibodeaux stepping up
First, one pop. And then another. Calvin Thibodeaux didnâ€™t want to believe his ears. A sharp, spiraling pain followed and he knew something was very wrong.
Three weeks later, Thibodeaux woke up in a post-op recovery room, staring at the ceiling and wondering if his football career was over. After doing some serious soul searching, he came to the conclusion he had some unfinished business waiting for him at the University of Oklahoma.
â€śI questioned myself and whether I could come back or not,â€ť said Thibodeaux, a 6-foot-1, 250-pound defensive end. â€śBut I didnâ€™t want my career to end like that. Everyone around me was so positive, so supportive. That helped get me through the rough times.â€ť
During his first two seasons, Thibodeaux began laying the groundwork he hoped would eventually translate into some serious playing time with the Sooners. The Houston product played sparingly as a true freshman and found himself again on mop-up duty the following season.
Hard work and occasional flashes of brilliance at practice pushed Thibodeaux up the depth chart until he had found a spot in the regular defensive rotation entering his junior season.
Then came the 2004 Oregon game and the two plays that forced him to put his dreams on hold.
â€śThe first was really a fluke play. The quarterback stepped up in the pocket and I when I tried to pivot, my foot caught and I heard a pop,â€ť explained Thibodeaux. â€śI didnâ€™t think it was too bad until I came back into the game a bit later and tried to make a flat move. Thatâ€™s when I heard the other pop.â€ť
Thibodeaux jogged off the field knowing in the back of his mind â€” his season was probably over. An MRI exam later revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, an injury not uncommon to football players and one that requires months of rigorous rehabilitation.
As soon as he was physically able, Thibodeaux re-dedicated himself to getting back on the field in time for his senior season. So far, all of the hard work has paid off in 2005. The 21-year-old recorded eight tackles â€” two for losses â€” in the first two games after replacing starter Larry Birdine who went down with a biceps injury.
â€ś(Calvin) has done a good job stepping in and making some plays,â€ť said defensive coordinator Brent Venables. â€śHis motor is always running and heâ€™s got good instincts. And the key for him is the fact heâ€™s still growing into his role with this defense.â€ť
That has become his main focus as the season progresses.
â€śAt this point, Iâ€™m still striving to be the best player I can be. Iâ€™ve put the injury and all that went with it behind me and my only focus now is on helping this team any way I can,â€ť Thibodeaux said.
Fortunately for Thibodeaux, heâ€™s had some rather talented mentors â€” such as Birdine, Dan Cody and Jonathan Jackson â€” teaching him the ropes during his time at OU.
â€śIâ€™ve taken a little bit from each of those guys. They set the standard pretty high here and itâ€™s up to myself and my teammates to live up to that standard,â€ť said Thibodeaux. â€śThis is a great opportunity for me. Itâ€™s time to step up, do my part and start making some plays. Thatâ€™s what I came here to do.â€ť
Thibodeaux has applied for a hardship ruling with the NCAA, which would give him an extra season of eligibility. If granted, he would return as a fifth-year senior in 2006 and be that much older and wiser, not to mention faster and stronger.
He is on track to graduate next May with a degree in Public Affairs and Administration.
Editor's Note: Boomer Bios are a regular feature in every issue of Sooner Spectator magazine. Pick up your coy now on newsstands throughout the OKC/Norman area and across the entire state.