NORMAN — Days after Oklahoma’s Oct. 28 loss to Kansas, Danny Stutsman met Brian Bosworth on an airport tarmac and shot a hype video.
The scene opens with Bosworth behind the wheel of a white Corvette, a nod to his 1986 Sports Illustrated photoshoot. The following shot shows Stutsman stepping off a private jet. Next, the pair of Sooners linebackers of different eras stand face-to-face.
Bosworth tosses Stutsman the keys and the young linebacker — suddenly wearing the very same fur coat Barry Switzer wore on his initial visit to recruit Bosworth in the early 1980s — motors away before a series of highlights flash across the screen, followed by the words “SEC, see you soon.”
Recorded ahead of the Sooners’ Nov. 4 trip to Oklahoma State, the video was initially commissioned for Stutsman’s Butkus Award campaign. After a late-season ankle injury derailed the junior linebacker’s award pursuit, the 65-second clip stayed on the shelf.
“If not this year, next year,” Bosworth told Sellout Crowd. “I always just assumed that he would come back.”
Stutsman’s return, however, was not given. The Sooners’ star defender had his heart set on leaving Norman for the NFL Draft late last week.
However, once Stutsman decided to return to OU for his senior season, he turned back to the hype video Monday — with some light editing and a new voiceover from Bosworth — to announce his plans, leaning on the legacy of one legendary Sooner as Stutsman continues to build his own in Norman.
“I think Danny did the right thing for himself,” Bosworth said. “And only time will tell. But I’m proud of him.”
Stutsman’s return delivers OU a considerable charge for the Sooners as the program heads into the SEC.
OU will plunge into its new conference home with one of the nation’s sure-handed and experienced tacklers. And when the Sooners welcome the likes of Alabama to Norman and run through their first slate of SEC road games, they’ll do so with a core emotional leader of the Venables era still on the roster.
Stutsman’s decision could be critical for OU. On Tuesday, fresh off the field from a bowl practice session, Stutsman outlined the difficulty of the choice he made last week.
“I think the heart wanted to stay here,” he said. “At the end of the day, you can’t turn that down. When it was time for pen to go to paper, it just didn’t feel right. I wasn’t ready to leave this program. All that we’ve built going into Year 3 with Coach Venables? I wasn’t ready to leave just yet.”
Only seven days ago, Stutsman explained, his mind was made up on a jump to the NFL.
After logging 99 total tackles and three sacks in 2023, he felt prepared for his shot at the next level. On Wednesday, Stutsman called Brent Venables and informed his head coach of his decision over the phone.
“I knew when I called him that first time I had to be 100% committed,” Stutsman said. “He gave me his spiel. I said, ‘Look Coach, it’s what’s best for my family.’ He had my back 100%.
“He was like, ‘If that’s really what you think I’m going to support you no matter what. You’ve done so much for this university. You’ve given so much to the University of Oklahoma.’ Obviously, that didn’t stick.”
Convicted initially, Stutsman began to waver on his decision.
He spoke to Venables again on Friday, then took the weekend to mull the move. In between, safety Billy Bowman, a fellow member of the Sooners’ 2021 class, announced his intention to return to OU in 2024. By Sunday, after spending the weekend alone, “phone down, just thinking and praying,” Stutsman said, he had changed his mind entirely.
“It was probably one of the most stressful weeks of my life,” he said.
“I just didn’t feel like I was ready to leave yet,” Stutsman continued. “Didn’t want to rush that. You never have this time to go back to college. And I really just wanted to finish out my senior year and everything that comes with that.”
Among those who offered light counsel as Stutsman wrestled over what to do was Bosworth.
The two-time Butkus Award winner noticed Stutsman’s promise during the Sooners’ 2021 spring game. They forged a connection soon after. In August, Stutsman sought Bosworth’s advice on being a leader. After OU’s Oct. 7 over Texas, Stutsman and Bosworth embraced on the Cotton Bowl turf.
When the Sooners thought up a creative way to launch Stutsman’s Butkus Award campaign last month, Bosworth was all in.
“It was kind of a throwback of that thing we did,” Bosworth said. “They called and asked if I still had the outfit I wore (in the 1986 photoshoot). I told them you can’t be serious. That thing is 40 years old. I don’t have that thing.”
Stutsman told reporters Tuesday that he hadn’t gotten his draft grade back before making his decision. “I know I can compete at that level,” he said. ESPN has him ranked as the No. 7 inside linebacker among draft-eligible prospects in 2024.
Bosworth offered an honest opinion: Another year in college will benefit Stutsman.
“He’s got a lot of work to do,” Bosworth said. “I think mentally he’s got a little bit more work to do. Within the skillset, he can still work on getting better. I’d like to see him put maybe another 10 pounds of muscle and strength on — he’s got the frame to do it. And then he can be a monster.”
Stutsman on Tuesday returned several times to not warning to leave anything on the table in his college career. Former Sooners quarterback Dillon Gabriel had a similar sentiment speaking last week on his decision to return to college football.
Bosworth, an icon of a bygone era in college football, holds traditional values on everything from the transfer portal to the way the game should be played and to the value of leaving a mark at one school in a time where players are flooding the transfer portal.
He too believes Stutsman will live to be grateful for the decision he made to return next fall.
“To leave early and to always have that second-guessing — did I leave something on the table? — I think would haunt him,” Bosworth said. “So I’m glad that he took the time and thought about it.”