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Carl Pendleton Q&A
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A chat with OU's personable D-lineman
There is not a whole lot of flash to Carl Pendleton. Heâ€™s blue collar all the way. And itâ€™s that mentality and work ethic that has made him a staple in Oklahomaâ€™s defensive front rotation. The 6-foot-5, 277-pound tackle has started four straight games for the Sooners, after playing his way into the starting lineup for eight games last season.
Sooner Spectator writer-at-large Mark Stack sat down with Pendleton after practice recently to discuss his rise through the ranks, life beyond football and a whole lot more:
Sooner Spectator: You played your way into the starting lineup last year. What kind of experience was that as only a redshirt-freshman?
Pendleton: I needed it. It was great for my confidence. As a redshirt, you really feel like you donâ€™t have a role. And to be able to come in and contribute was nice. But to come in and contribute and play well defensively, it definitely gives you confidence.
SS: Did you ever expect to be a starter last season?
Pendleton: No. I was expecting to learn from those other guys who had experience, guys who had been around and played a whole lot. I knew I would play, but I never thought I would start.
SS: What have been the biggest adjustments for you since the day you initially stepped on campus until right now?
Pendleton: Just football. Football in probably every way possible. Itâ€™s just totally different. Fitting football into my life, for me, was a big change. With hard work and God, and I was able to do it.
SS: What areas do you need to grow in to become a more complete college player?
Pendleton: Being a better team member. You know, itâ€™s all about the team and I need to do my part. Need to work more as a unit to play hard and play well. And eliminate some mistakes. Itâ€™s the only thing you can do as a defense to get the win.
SS: As a unit, do you feel you have far to go to get those things corrected?
Pendleton: I think we have made a lot of strides over the last few games. One or two plays the last two games, and they wouldnâ€™t even be (close) games. So I think itâ€™s a matter of bringing it all together and making sure everyone is focused and playing their best.
SS: During the 2003-04 basketball season, you participated as one of the yell leaders with the OU Spirit Squad. How did you get involved with that and what was it like?
Pendleton: I originally did it in high school. When I came here, I was redshirted and I wanted to compete in something. Iâ€™m always busy, used to doing something. I donâ€™t like idle time. I wasnâ€™t competing in football, so I wanted to compete in something. My philosophy is that you are only in school for so long, you might as well experience all that you can. It was a great experience and I developed some great relationships. We did some cool stuff, and it was good to keep busy and do something exciting.
SS: Did you catch much grief from your teammates?
Pendleton: Nobody really gave me a hard time about it. Everyone was really curious more than anything else. Besides, Iâ€™ve always been the kind of person who doesnâ€™t care about what other people think.
SS: When you were growing up in Georgia, were you able to keep up with the Sooners at all?
Pendleton: I actually grew up in Oklahoma. I moved to Georgia when I was in the fifth grade and lived there for a couple years and came back to Oklahoma. So I was very familiar with OU and OSU growing up. I actually never went to a game. The first major college game I went to was at (Georgia) and I sold programs there at the games, and right away I knew playing football was something I wanted to be a part of. So when I came back to Oklahoma, OU was just the choice where academically I had a lot of options. It really came down to what God wanted me to do.
SS: How did you get involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes?
Pendleton: Tommie Harris invited me one day. Tommie, Matt McCoy and Kory Klein were all really involved and they invited me. I didnâ€™t talk a whole lot my freshman year. I didnâ€™t go out and do much. And that was the one place that felt right at home.
SS: Is traveling to different schools and functions to speak about the FCA something that means a lot to you?
Pendleton: Itâ€™s big. Itâ€™s a joy of mine, and if I wasnâ€™t doing it I would feel empty. It keeps my head into where I need to be. The responsibility as a believer to share my faith with the kids is important. I know personally how important that age is. That was the time that really defined me as to who I am. If it wasnâ€™t for the influence of God in my life, I wouldnâ€™t be who I am. Because if someone who had gone through the things that I was going through came up to me and said to me that things can be better, I probably would have changed sooner. So hopefully, I can be that kind of inspiration to other kids who were like me.
SS: Last year, you were honored as a Big 12 All-Academic performer for your efforts in the classroom. Is that something you take great pride in as well?
Pendleton: Thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m here for. Iâ€™m here for school, so I should do well in school. Football is a way for me to get my school paid for. And of course Iâ€™m going to work hard at football, but Iâ€™m using it to get my education. Iâ€™m going to use football as much as football uses me.
SS: What teammates have been the most influential on you during your time at OU?
Pendleton: The guys I mentioned earlier, Tommie Harris, Kory Klein and Matt McCoy. Also Jacob Gutierrez, and a freshman this year, Lamont Robinson â€” guys who are strong believers and have the same values that I do. Those are great guys to call friends.
SS: With all the highs and lows this team has been through, how much character has this team built from that?
Pendleton: I think any adversity you go through and make it out of, you are going to build character. So battling through and making those strides like beating Baylor in OT, being able to push through and come out with a win is big. I donâ€™t think early in the season, we wouldnâ€™t have had the same gall to finish those games like we did. Itâ€™s all learning and building, and weâ€™re doing that.
SS: Do you still feel like a sophomore after all you have been through?
Pendleton: No. I mean, Iâ€™ve been here three years and I feel old. Weâ€™ve been through so much. Itâ€™s one of those things where the freshmen arenâ€™t freshmen anymore. I think weâ€™ve grown and experienced so much in the last couple of months that everyone feels a year older already.
SS: Of course you donâ€™t like to dwell in the past, but the three teams you lost to this season are playing really well right now. TCU is in the top 25 and UCLA and Texas are both competing for a national title. Do you look back at those losses and realize maybe they werenâ€™t as bad as originally thought?
Pendleton: Any loss hurts. And the fact that you can look at any of those games, except for a few pivotal plays, we were in those games. Thatâ€™s where it hurts because maybe if our technique or effort was a different on a play here or a play there, those are games we could have won and we could be contending for a national title, instead of those other teams. It just makes you realize how itâ€™s us more than it is the other teams.
SS: Talk about DeMarcus Granger, the highly-touted defensive tackle. You see him in practice and play next to him every day â€” what are you initial thoughts?
Pendleton: I think the kid is going to be great. He is a great athlete and he does some things that, for his size, you couldnâ€™t possibly do. I think heâ€™s going to be a great player. He works hard every day to be a better player.
SS: Whatâ€™s harder, losing to Texas or seeing them compete for a national title?
Pendleton: Losing. Iâ€™m all for the Big 12 having national success. I just donâ€™t want to lose to anyone in the Big 12. I think itâ€™s the best conference in the nation, so I donâ€™t mind the recognition if we can get it.