Jalen Redmond’s ongoing adversity an excuse for us to take stock in the person, not just the player, something we should have done when he was a Sooner.
NORMAN — Campus Corner overflowed hours before OU’s last home football game Sept. 9, fans seeking Jim Traber and Al Eschbach in their mobile studio, the end of Utah-Baylor on a giant screen, a parade honoring OU’s national championship softball and gymnastics teams straight down Asp Avenue, or cold beer wherever anyone could get it.
It was easy to overlook the former Sooner sitting beneath the white tent off to one side. It was easy to overlook Jalen Redmond.
“It’s been good. I think it’s a lot of love,” Redmond said between signings during an autograph session sponsored by Sooner Spectator. “I enjoy being around everybody, all the fans and everything.”
That was really nice to hear for reasons you already know about, and don’t.
To rehash… Redmond arrived at OU in 2018 a can’t-miss prospect from Midwest City and immediately encountered can’t-believe problems, from blood clots threatening his health to coaching changes threatening his development. There was a 2020 pandemic, a ‘21 knee injury and an entire staff change heading into ‘22, all mixed with a productive if unspectacular 36-game career which ended when he turned pro before OU’s 2022 Cheez-It Bowl.
That it wasn’t an easy decision still hasn’t registered with lost souls like the one who tweeted at Redmond for promoting his autograph appearance the day before, accusing him of quitting on the Sooners.
While those likes were peeing into lemonade pitchers Sept. 9, Redmond signed glossies, ball caps and sneakers. He rose for pictures, Horns flashed down. He caught up with old acquaintances who watched him play here not long ago, and one who wrote about him.
“I’d rather be gone, but being back is good,” Redmond told me. “Just waiting. Hoping to get another opportunity in the League.”
He had one with the Carolina Panthers. They signed him as an undrafted free agent last spring and hoped he might make a camp splash. That’s where we last left Redmond’s story, wondering if it might turn up and stay there for a change.
“I got injured,” he said. “I had another hiccup with a blood clot from a calf injury. Right after rookie mini-camp. They released me.”
Wow. That is a rough go…
“It is,” Redmond said. “But that’s part of it… I just got cleared from it last week. Hopefully I’ll start hearing something, will get a call, get a tryout.”
He said he was staying fit in Edmond, tending to his 1-year-old son, Khi, and minding some familiar business in the meantime.
“I still keep in touch with most of the D-line,” Redmond said. “Jordan Kelley, Kelvin Gilliam, all the guys I was here with. Isaiah Coe.”
Keeping in touch but keeping a distance.
“They know I’m here but I haven’t seen them since I’ve been back. I’m trying to… It’s difficult to be out and around everybody,” Redmond said. “I don’t know… In my head I feel like I shouldn’t be here right now. It’s hard on me. I should be playing a game on Sunday.”
You going to the game later? You got tickets, right?
“I actually didn’t even try,” Redmond said. “Same thing. It’s hard for me to watch knowing I should… I weigh it on myself. It’s tough on me.”
Fans look up and a defensive lineman is gone after five years. They might recall some details of the lineman’s life, but mostly pass judgment about his football and whether their expectations were met. Too bad.
Maybe if they take a minute to reconsider the lineman, since he’s close to his team again but only so close, because he’s gotten a little older and discovered the world to be a little colder and that’s tough to reconcile. The same as it’s tough for us all.
It isn’t too late to reconsider Redmond.
“I miss my teammates. I miss the guys I put in that work with,” he said of his five years with the Sooners. “But I loved being in an NFL locker room, being around those guys. It was good while I was there.”
Anything you’d do differently at OU?
“No,” he said. “I think everything happens for a reason. All of the decisions I made when I was here, they grew me into the man I am today. I have no regrets. I loved it here.”
You think fans around here today feel that?
“I hope so.”
Oklahoma’s Jalen Redmond (31) pressures Oklahoma State’s Spencer Sanders (3) during the Bedlam game Nov., 19, 2022, in Norman. (SARAH PHIPPS/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY NETWORK)