Sooners' Heupel was studying film long before college
Posted: Tuesday December 05, 2000 6:08 PM
Josh Heupel has thrown for 6,792 yards and 50 touchdowns in only two seasons at Oklahoma. AP
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- Josh Heupel was about 5 when he first asked
to join his dad at the office to watch game film.
"I said, 'If you come and you mess around, that'll be the last
time you do it,'" said Ken Heupel, then an assistant coach at
Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D.
"Most kids, when you bring 'em, they're fooling around or
drawing on the board. He was right in the middle of the coaches."
It wouldn't be the last time Josh Heupel made an impression in a
film room. On his recruiting trip to Oklahoma in December 1998, he
spent seven hours watching tapes of the Sooners' offense, which he
now runs so well he could win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday.
|Heupel By the Numbers|
||Total offense per game
||Yards per attempt
||Completions per game
| || |
Heupel threw for 3,400 yards and 30 touchdowns last year. But as
this season began, he was generally considered the third-best
quarterback in the Big 12, behind Major Applewhite of Texas and
Eric Crouch of Nebraska.
He's now considered one of the nation's best.
"Josh is the heart of this team," coach Bob Stoops said after
his top-ranked Sooners beat Kansas State in the Big 12 championship
"He doesn't like to hear that or doesn't want me to say that.
But I don't know if anyone else has had the road that we've had,
played the games that we have, and come out undefeated. We've more
than earned our way, and he's THE factor."
Heupel threw for 3,392 yards and 20 touchdowns in Oklahoma's 12
games, and was most impressive when most was at stake.
During a three-game stretch in October when the Sooners beat
Texas, Kansas State and Nebraska to move to No. 1, Heupel was
66-of-108 for 1,049 yards, four touchdowns and just one
He was intercepted twice in each of the final three games of the
regular season. But he rallied his team in the fourth quarter to
beat Texas A&M and led a clinching drive in the fourth quarter of a
victory over Texas Tech.
Heupel was intercepted three times in the Big 12 championship
game. He also threw two touchdown passes, ran for a score and used
an option pitch to convert a critical fourth down that led to the
"He's been doing that all year," said quarterbacks coach Chuck
Long, once a Heisman runner-up. "He played exceptionally well in
the middle of the year. During the course of a season, though,
you're going to get some bumps in a road.
"He made the plays when he had to, and that's the sign of a
When he joined his father at work, which was often, Josh would
throw to the receivers, or act as the option quarterback for his
When Josh Heupel practiced on teams with kids his own age, he
routinely left his mother waiting longer than all the other moms.
She still waits for him. Cindy Heupel hasn't missed any of her
son's games, home or away, in the past two years. Never mind that
it's roughly 800 miles from the family home in Aberdeen to Norman.
Her husband, now head coach at Northern State, also travels to
see his son play, even though he has to miss some of his own team's
Josh Heupel doesn't have the strongest arm or the quickest feet
around. But the lefty's arm is stronger than a year ago, his
footwork is better, and he's faster than last year because of the
time he spent working out during the spring and summer.
"There's a lot of guys in Canton and Cooperstown who are
enshrined there who never had a chance to win a championship,"
offensive coordinator Mark Mangino said. "He wants to win a
championship. That's what he's all about and that's what his
leadership is all about."
Heupel began his college career at Weber State, where he sat out
his first year, 1996. He tore a knee ligament in the spring of that
year, rehabilitated it and wound up playing in just four games in
When his coach left for another job, Heupel also moved on. He
wound up at Snow Junior College in Utah, where he threw for 2,308
yards and 28 touchdowns despite playing just the first half of each
Heupel says if he hadn't received a call in
December 1998 from
Sooners offensive coordinator Mike Leach -- now Texas Tech's coach --
he probably would have wound up at a much smaller Division I
school. Instead, he's the biggest reason the Sooners are going to
the Orange Bowl for a shot at the national championship against
If Heupel has any interest in the increased media attention, he
does a good job of disguising it. He often deflects questions about
himself and tries to steer the conversation toward his teammates.
"He's an incredibly humble and grateful person," Stoops said.
"He understands his players, his partners, his teammates have a
lot to do with how he plays.
"He's just a regular ol' guy that people can approach. Our
players respect how hard he works and they respect the fact that
they know he truly understands they're part of it. He respects them
every bit as much."
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