Family’s presence at Konnor Near’s OU debut shows Sooners need love, too

Family’s presence at Konnor Near’s OU debut shows Sooners need love, too

The Sooners making plays all over Owen Field seem different than us. They aren’t, though. The players are bolstered by the love and support of family and loved ones same as us, especially during life changes.

Guerin Emig

By Guerin Emig

| Sep 3, 2023, 4:00pm CDT

Guerin Emig

By Guerin Emig

Sep 3, 2023, 4:00pm CDT

NORMAN — Across the street from Owen Field two hours before Oklahoma’s football opener Saturday, one Sooner’s family was just trying to hold it together. 

“Just lots of emotions,” Jason Near said. “Trying to keep dry eyes.”

“I can’t stop crying,” Megan Burk said. “I’m so proud of him. We all are.”

Meet the family of Konnor Near, the OU linebacker by way of Ferris State University, the NCAA Division II national champion located in Big Rapids, Mich. Twelve from Konnor’s family had come to Norman, 10 from Konnor’s hometown of St. Johns, Mich. 

This should give you an idea about life in St. Johns and the impact Konnor Near has made up there:

“Konnor came home after he committed here and went downtown to go to the bar on Friday night,” said Jason Near, Konnor’s dad. “He walked in the bar and…

“Everybody started cheering,” said Burk, Konnor’s aunt.

“Konnor was like, ‘I just turned around and walked out.’ He was so embarrassed,” Jason Near continued. “They dragged him back him.”

“It’s a town of 8,000 people, right?” said Matt Burk, Konnor’s uncle.

“It’s super cool. The community is all behind him,” Jason Near said. “They put Konnor’s name on the sign at the bar when he came to Oklahoma and when he was playing in the championship game (Ferris State has won the past two D-II titles).”

The Sooners making plays all over Owen Field seem different than us. College football players making plays every Saturday everywhere seem different. Adulation and ESPN will do that. 

Oklahoma linebacker Konnor Near. (BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY NETWORK)

They aren’t, though. Not really. The players are bolstered by the love and support of family and loved ones same as us, especially during life changes. 

The family and loved ones are bolstered by lending support. They often feel it deeper than the players, same as we do when we support our players. 

I hope to underscore that throughout this season on selloutcrowd.com and guerinemig.com by introducing you to families like the Nears. That should allow us to see the players as people and relate to them in doing so. 

Jason said the Nears have been behind Konnor since he started playing sports in fourth grade. What has that looked like?

“Man. It’s a lot. It’s a lot of commitment. A lot of funds and a lot of time,” Jason Near said. “Konnor was a basketball player, too. We spent a lot of time traveling all over the country for basketball. Actually, I built him a barn to play basketball in…”

Wait… You built him a barn?

“Well, it wasn’t just for that,” Jason grinned, “but that was my excuse for my wife. ‘We’ve gotta build a barn to get Konnor court time.’ So I built him a real tall barn so he could hoop in it. And my daughter could serve volleyballs against the wall.”

“We’ve always been a big sports family,” Matt Burk said. “All of our kids and cousins and uncles and aunts. Everybody has been supportive forever.”

Everybody was in Norman Saturday. 

The family saw Konnor during OU’s pregame “Walk of Champions” from Lindsey Street into the stadium. The player exchanged hugs from his support system, many of whom wore white OU football T-shirts with Near’s No. 42 on the back, 

Then Jason Near stepped atop the family’s drinks cooler to record the mass of fans dispersing along Jenkins Avenue. 

“I put the video on Facebook and said, ‘Just like Ferris.’” Jason said. “No, it’s night and day. I told Konnor a couple weeks ago that last year he played 15 games in front of 70,000 people. Total. I said, ‘Game one you’re gonna play in front of 85,000.’”

There have been speed bumps here, but then isn’t that the case for everyone at a new school? Football player or philosophy major? College, high school or Montessori student? 

“It’s been kind of nerve-wracking through this process just trying to give Konnor his space,” Jason Near said. “Everybody’s like, ‘Can we call? We don’t wanna bug him if he’s busy.’ I say every time I call him I’m like, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘I’m studying, Dad.’ ‘What are you studying?’ ‘Football.’”

Konnor told his family when he got to OU: “Remember those old phone books that used to be so thick? Coach’s playbook is three of those.”

His family told him to hang in there and everything would be fine. 

Sounds like his family was right.

“He’s super excited,” Jason Near said. “He’s happy where he’s at on the depth chart (backing up Jaren Kanak at MIKE linebacker). He’s super happy to be here in Oklahoma.”

You know who else was super happy to be there for Saturday’s season opener? The Nears, Burks and the rest of the family in Konnor’s traveling cheering section.

Among the sweetest sights at the Sooners’ first game of 2023.

Share with your crowd
Guerin Emig is a columnist for the Sellout Crowd network. Read his work at selloutcrowd.com and guerinemig.com. Reach out with feedback and/or ideas at [email protected] or (918) 629-6229. Follow him on Twitter at @GuerinEmig and Instagram at @guerin.emig. .

The latest from Sellout Crowd

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; The Oklahoma City Thunder bench watch the final minute of their game against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    Does OKC need more Aaron Wiggins?

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder fans cheer as their team scores against the Dallas Mavericks during the second quarter of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    Thunder-Mavericks: Why these playoffs might spawn a new OKC rival

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives to the basket beside Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) during the second half of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    OKC fans chanted ‘Luka sucks,’ but Doncic’s play said otherwise

  • Tailgating on The Grove on the Ole Miss campus in Oxford, Ms., on Saturday September 15, 2018.

Pre309

    OU’s move to the SEC: Listing the things to look foward to

  • Ireland travelblog: Farewell to the Emerald Isle, which keep Americans coming

The latest from Sellout Crowd

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; The Oklahoma City Thunder bench watch the final minute of their game against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    Does OKC need more Aaron Wiggins?

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder fans cheer as their team scores against the Dallas Mavericks during the second quarter of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    Thunder-Mavericks: Why these playoffs might spawn a new OKC rival

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives to the basket beside Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) during the second half of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    OKC fans chanted ‘Luka sucks,’ but Doncic’s play said otherwise

  • Tailgating on The Grove on the Ole Miss campus in Oxford, Ms., on Saturday September 15, 2018.

Pre309

    OU’s move to the SEC: Listing the things to look foward to

  • Ireland travelblog: Farewell to the Emerald Isle, which keep Americans coming