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Jalin Conyers
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47Straight
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 Posted: Fri Feb 14th, 2020 02:38 pm

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This is right in 47's wheelhouse.  65 years ago I played football against Gruver and Stinnett.  Around 35 years ago I had an unsportsman-like conduct penalty flag thrown at me as a fan at half time at a JV football game in Gruver.  If you are a small town kid (and maybe even if you are a big town kid), this is a great read.
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OU signee Jalin Conyers is a big talent from a tiny town
By Jason Kersey


GRUVER, Texas — Sporting a fedora and trench coat, Jalin Conyers stood and belted the opening line to the back row.

“Noir here. Nick Noir. You might be wondering what I’m doing here in this crummy alley in this crummy part of this crummy town. Don’t bother, ’cause I could ask you the same thing.”

It was Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019 and for the next hour and a half, Conyers was positioned right where he always is positioned at Gruver High and in this Texas Panhandle town of maybe 1,200 — center stage.

That night, he portrayed a bumbling but earnest private detective named Nick Noir, the lead role in the play “Death By Chocolate.” About 24 hours earlier, he’d played his leading role with the Greyhounds’ football team. A month after the play, Conyers — a two-time Texas Class 2A basketball all-state tournament team honoree — hit the hardwood, beginning his quest to reach another state championship game.

He’s an accomplished triple-jumper on the Gruver track team.

He’s one of the better players on Gruver’s baseball team.

He competes for the Gruver golf team.

And he loves to cook and thinks he might want to be a chef someday.

Oh, and in about four months, Conyers, a four-star tight end, will move to Norman, Okla., to join one of college football’s best programs. A consensus national top-225 prospect nationally, Conyers signed with Oklahoma in December.

Here’s the craziest part: Until about 12 months ago, football wasn’t his priority. In an era where blue-chip recruits start getting scholarship offers — or at least attention — from FBS programs as freshmen or sophomores, Conyers didn’t pick up his first football offer until Feb. 23, 2019, two months after his junior season ended. The floodgates then opened. Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State, Texas, USC and several others extended scholarship offers before Conyers settled on the Sooners.

That fact alone — that someone can rise that high that late in the recruiting process — is nuts.

“Usually these guys are freshmen, sophomores,” said OU inside receivers coach Cale Gundy, who was Conyers’ primary recruiter. “He’s the tight end, receiver-type body that we look for. We look for great athletes that can run around and that can be great receivers.”

It’s almost exhausting to go through every one of Conyers’ extracurricular accomplishments. Being from a small school, it’s not surprising he would be so involved in so many things. But to be so good at so many things?

“We’ve got a lot of kids that do everything,” said Melissa Shelley, Conyers’ theater teacher. “But what sets him apart from the other kids is that he’s good at everything he does.

“You’re just like, ‘Oh, my God, how is this even possible?’ ”

Conyers’ story actually begins in a different, slightly bigger town in the Texas Panhandle named Stinnett, population 1,800, located about 35 miles south of Gruver on State Highway 136. He grew up dreaming of one day playing big-time college basketball.

And he was pretty good at basketball. As a sophomore at West Texas High in Stinnett, Conyers helped lead the Comanches to a Class 2A state championship. He began talking to several college basketball coaches — including Lon Kruger at Oklahoma — but hadn’t received any scholarship offers just yet.

He played football at West Texas, too. Conyers was the starting quarterback for part of his freshman season and his entire sophomore campaign. He loved life on the gridiron, but says basketball was his first love and the sport he always saw himself playing at the next level.

After his sophomore year, Jalin’s mother, Kimberly, got a job as a counselor at Gruver High, so the family moved.

Gruver already had a quarterback, though. Keegan Kelp had started as a junior and was back for his senior season, so Gruver coach Terry Felderhoff asked Conyers if he’d consider playing wide receiver. “I told him that I wasn’t saying he couldn’t compete for the job, but that we had a big hole at the receiver spot,” Felderhoff said.

Felderhoff was fully aware of Conyers’ talent and athleticism. Gruver and West Texas meet each year in several sports, and in the 2017 opener, West Texas beat Gruver 39-19 with Conyers passing for 313 yards and seven touchdowns.

Felderhoff told Conyers that as a senior, he could move back to quarterback, but that because Kelp knew the offense and was the returning starter, it was best for the team that Conyers play receiver in 2018.

That move turned out to be pretty good for Conyers, too. Gruver went 14-2 and reached the state championship game in 2018, with Conyers catching 10 touchdown passes.

It was that state championship game that made Conyers start thinking that maybe football would be his future. Gruver lost to Mart 76-33, but Conyers caught 12 passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns, setting Texas Class 2A state title game records in all three categories.

Conyers and his uncle put together a football highlight tape, just to see what kind of interest might be out there.

“Mostly for me, it was like, ‘OK, I’ve got to get ready for basketball because this is where I’ve got to earn my scholarship,’ ” Conyers said.

But then the football calls started coming. And coming fast. His first offer came Feb. 23, 2019, from the school he always dreamed of attending — Texas Tech.

Conyers grew up a die-hard Texas Tech fan, as do many people in this part of Texas.

“I was a Tech fan coming out of the womb,” said Conyers, who attended Texas Tech sporting events through the years with his grandfather, Colin Locke.

When Conyers played quarterback at West Texas High, he wore a sleeve on his right arm and a headband because that’s what Patrick Mahomes does. He once met Mahomes — shortly after he was drafted — at a Lubbock restaurant when Conyers was in town for a basketball tournament in which his sister played.

So when Texas Tech coach Matt Wells offered Conyers his first football scholarship, he was tempted to commit on the spot. Very tempted. So tempted, in fact, that he told Wells that he kind of wanted to commit.

“He told me, ‘You honestly need to go check out other options because you’re about to get a lot of other offers,’ ” Conyers said. “Probably if it wasn’t for him telling me that, I probably would have committed.”

Wells was right. Over the next few months, Conyers’ offer list exploded, with scholarship offers coming in from the likes of LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Georgia, Penn State and USC.

On one of those spring 2019 days when a couple of new scholarship offers were extended, Kimberly Conyers found Jalin laying on the living room floor. “Mom, I think I’m going to play football,” he told her.

She asked him if he was sure and if there was any basketball team that could call and make an offer that would cause him to say no to all the football programs. Jalin thought for a moment and said, “I don’t know … Duke?”

But that was pretty much it. He continued playing basketball — he helped lead Gruver to the Class 2A state title game last spring and is in the midst of his senior season now — but football had become his priority.

Oklahoma offered Conyers in late March 2019, after Sooners coaches started feeling unsure about eventual five-star recruit Drew Sanders, a Dallas-area prospect who committed to OU in November 2017. Sanders decommitted in late April and ultimately signed with Alabama.

“We started to kind of get a feel that (Sanders) might be heading in a different direction, so we got back on the recruiting board and started looking at the top skilled tight ends in the country,” Gundy said. “There just happened to be one four hours away in the Texas Panhandle. Before that, we weren’t recruiting anybody else. I mean, we had Drew Sanders, so there was no reason to be looking around.”

The family took an unofficial visit to Oklahoma in mid-April. As they were leaving, Jalin asked his mom — also a lifelong Texas Tech fan — what she thought. “I really wanted to hate it,” she responded, “but I couldn’t.”

Norman is only about an extra 30 minutes from home (3.5 hours) compared to Lubbock. “There really wasn’t anything we didn’t like,” Kimberly said.

Wells may live to regret his admirable — if self-defeating — advice to Conyers. By the time Conyers released a top three in June, Texas Tech no longer was in the picture. He was down to Georgia, Ohio State and Oklahoma.

“When I was getting ready to tweet that out, I paused for a second,” Conyers said. “It was like, ‘Do I really want to press this button without Tech on there?’ ”

He did it, then put his phone away for the rest of the day.

“You know, if you had comparable teams that had offered, I think Tech was a no-brainer for him,” said Cory Conyers, Jalin’s father. “But when you had these blue-blood powerhouse programs offer you, and you go visit them and see what they have to offer, you can see the separation that there is between them and some other schools.”

Conyers committed to OU in July. He thought about delaying his announcement until the January All-American Bowl — where numerous of top prospects make their official announcements — but decided against it, preferring instead to get it over with so he could focus on his senior season.

Locke vowed that while he’d always support his grandson, he’d never wear an OU shirt — a vow he’s already broken.

“Since he chose OU, I’ve been shedding tears,” Locke said with a laugh, “but I’m over it now. I’ve even got a couple of OU shirts — and I’ve actually worn them out in public.”

Conyers’ recruitment has been quite the whirlwind for the town of Gruver; Conyers is believed to be the first Gruver High alum to play Division I athletics.

“Last year, during the spring after he started getting his first football offers, coaches were just pouring in,” said Hunter Haynes, one of Jalin’s friends and a Gruver High teammates in several sports. “You couldn’t walk the halls without seeing a head coach or a top assistant coach.

“It was cool getting to see them. It was something that a lot of people from small schools don’t ever get to experience. And then they’d be out at track or baseball practice watching him and taking notes.”

At times, coaches found themselves lost in this remote part of the country. In certain areas around Gruver, it can be difficult to get cell phone service. One West Coast assistant coach called Felderhoff last spring and said he wanted to see Conyers, then hit some schools in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. He asked Felderhoff how long a drive that would be. (The answer? A solid six hours, at least.)

Lots of coaches flew to Amarillo, then drove 90 minutes north to Gruver.

“About 10 miles out (from town) is a feed yard, so it smells awful,” Kimberly Conyers said. “I told them when you get to the feed yard and smell the cows, you know you’re about 10 miles away. And then sometimes, depending on which way the wind is blowing, you can smell that here.”

One day last spring, Gundy ran into Ohio State assistant Kevin Wilson at the Dallas airport. Wilson spent nine years on the OU staff with Gundy and the two remain friends. They were in line to board the same plane to Amarillo, and Wilson told Gundy, “I’ve got to go out and see this tight end.”

“I knew immediately what he was doing,” Gundy said.

They watched Conyers at track practice and even went to lunch together with Felderhoff.

“It’s a lot easier to recruit a young man who’s in a part of the country like that because there’s not a lot of traffic that goes through there,” Gundy said. “ … If you want to get to Gruver, Texas, you’ve got to put in some time and effort. You’ve got to work at it.”

Oklahoma hasn’t signed a football player from a town as small as Gruver since 2009, when it signed linebacker Ronnell Lewis out of Dewar, Okla., which has about 300 fewer residents than Gruver. Dewar High plays eight-man football.

Gruver contains most of what you might imagine about a small town in the Texas Panhandle. Grain elevators exponentially outnumber traffic lights and restaurants; the tiny Gruver Cafe, open until 2 p.m. daily, is the only restaurant left. Venture outside of Gruver’s 1.1 square-mile city limits, and you’ll find dozens of crop circles and wind turbines.

Life in such a place is something Conyers cherishes and isn’t ready to give up quite yet. That’s a big reason he didn’t enroll early at Oklahoma. He still wants to participate in basketball, track, baseball, golf and — yes — theater this spring.

“When they asked if I wanted to enroll early, I was like, ‘Man, I’ve got to play basketball. I’ve got to run track,’ ” he said. “Especially this being my senior year, I wanted to do everything possible and do the best I possibly could before I graduate.

“Of course, next year, it’s going to be all football, all day, every day. But in high school, being part of a small town, I didn’t want to be the guy who said, ‘Oh, I’m just going to play football and that’s it.’ I wanted to do everything I could to help every single team.”

The Gruver basketball team is 23-4 and eyeing a second consecutive trip to the state championship game, with the obvious hope of winning it this year. And the town is immensely supportive of its athletic teams. Kimberly Conyers jokes that if you want to commit a crime in Gruver, you won’t get caught on a Friday night in the fall or on a Tuesday or Friday night during basketball season.

“I tell our players all the time, we are this town’s entertainment source,” Felderhoff said. “Friday night football, Thursday night JV and junior high football. Then basketball rolls around and the high school teams play Tuesdays and Fridays, and the junior high plays Mondays. Then you get to spring and you’ve got baseball and softball.

“We are the entertainment in the town. In return, they’re very supportive of our kids. Every year during football, I tell the kids, ‘It says Gruver on the front of your jersey. There are a whole lot of people you’re representing.’ ”

In a few months, Conyers will be representing Gruver on a much bigger stage. The Sooners lost their top two tight ends — Grant Calcaterra and Lee Morris — from last season and return only sophomore Austin Stogner, who saw limited action last season as a true freshman.

The last time Conyers visited Norman, Sooners coach Lincoln Riley — who also is from a small West Texas town (Muleshoe) — took him aside and told him to come to campus ready because there is a real chance he’ll play in 2020.

“He said if you work hard and you do what you’re supposed to and you take care of stuff, you have a really good chance to play,” Conyers said. “I could tell he was being genuine. And for me, it kind of flipped the switch. Like OK, I need to get in the weight room more often. I need to run. I need to eat better. I mean, at the beginning of the year, I couldn’t even bench 225. Now, I’m up to five reps of 225. My goal is to get to 10 by the end of the year.”

Less than a year ago, Conyers didn’t have a single football scholarship offer; today, he’s preparing to join a blue-blood program with a real chance at immediate playing time.

“I mean, this is crazy,” he said. “God blessed me with this opportunity, so I’m ready to take full advantage of it.”
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This is a picture of Conyers and his sister

Attachment: 1 Conyers at Gruver (800x726) (800x726) (800x726).jpg (Downloaded 295 times)

Last edited on Fri Feb 14th, 2020 02:42 pm by 47Straight

UtahSooner83
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 Posted: Fri Feb 14th, 2020 04:40 pm

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Stogner the ONLY returning TE? What about Brayden Willis??

Last edited on Fri Feb 14th, 2020 06:15 pm by UtahSooner83

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 Posted: Fri Feb 14th, 2020 05:22 pm

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47, why do I get the sneaking suspicion you posted that particular picture mostly because of the sister? :D

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 Posted: Fri Feb 14th, 2020 05:33 pm

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Thanks for posting.


I have driven by that feed lot more times than I can remember.

OU has had good luck with most of Texas Panhandle players that we have signed.

There are always a few small town players like this from remote locations that are overlooked until the last moment or are not noticed at all by the bigger schools then end up playing at lower level.

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 Posted: Fri Feb 14th, 2020 06:48 pm

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When I see Gruver mentioned it always makes me think of "Dead Solid Perfect" by Dan Jenkins.
There was a day when most of our Texasperated recruits came from small towns in West Texas. One of my favorites was Carl McAdams.

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 Posted: Fri Feb 14th, 2020 07:45 pm

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WaddysWagon wrote: There was a day when most of our Texasperated recruits came from small towns in West Texas. One of my favorites was Carl McAdams.Carl McAdams was from White Deer, as was Jim Weatherall.  When Carl signed with the NY Jets, part of the deal was that the Jets would buy the motel in White Deer that Carl's folks owned.  So there was a time in the 60s when the New York Jets owned the only motel in White Deer Texas.

47Straight
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 Posted: Fri Feb 14th, 2020 07:48 pm

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Triple Option wrote: 47, why do I get the sneaking suspicion you posted that particular picture mostly because of the sister? :DI cry foul!  I AM OFFENDED.  TO has called me a dirty old man.  Only my neighbor's 14 year old daughter gets to do that. ;)

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 Posted: Fri Feb 14th, 2020 08:05 pm

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47Straight wrote:
Triple Option wrote: 47, why do I get the sneaking suspicion you posted that particular picture mostly because of the sister? :DI cry foul!  I AM OFFENDED.  TO has called me a dirty old man.  Only my neighbor's 14 year old daughter gets to do that. ;)
Hey! I did NOT say you were old!

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 Posted: Fri Feb 14th, 2020 09:03 pm

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Triple Option wrote: 47Straight wrote:
Triple Option wrote: 47, why do I get the sneaking suspicion you posted that particular picture mostly because of the sister? :DI cry foul!  I AM OFFENDED.  TO has called me a dirty old man.  Only my neighbor's 14 year old daughter gets to do that. ;)
Hey! I did NOT say you were old!
:beer:(y):beer:

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 Posted: Fri Feb 14th, 2020 11:29 pm

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Does she play softball I hear OU has a good program

:)

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 Posted: Sat Feb 15th, 2020 12:47 am

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I played against Gruver a couple of times. I think it was my Junior year when we played them at Gruver. At half time we went back to our dressing room. There were doors on the toilets. One of my best friends was the first into the locker room. When he walked in he heard some noise in one of the toilets. When he looked under one of the doors he saw girls shoes suddenly raising up.

The poor girl had to be scared to death. My buddy told us what was going on. We didn't tell the coaches. We had lots of laughs at the poor girl. She had to be scared one of us would try to open the door.

At the time it was funny. Later, it didn't seem so funny to me. Boys will be boys. :P:P

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 Posted: Sat Feb 15th, 2020 12:59 am

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Walt wrote:
I played against Gruver a couple of times. I think it was my Junior year when we played them at Gruver. At half time we went back to our dressing room. There were doors on the toilets. One of my best friends was the first into the locker room. When he walked in he heard some noise in one of the toilets. When he looked under one of the doors he saw girls shoes suddenly raising up.

The poor girl had to be scared to death. My buddy told us what was going on. We didn't tell the coaches. We had lots of laughs at the poor girl. She had to be scared one of us would try to open the door.

At the time it was funny. Later, it didn't seem so funny to me. Boys will be boys. :P:P



I promise you this Walt, it was funny at the time, and it is still funny today.

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 Posted: Sat Feb 15th, 2020 03:45 am

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It sounds like a locker thief to me. You let her sit on the toilet the whole half-time?

I hope you weren't missing any valuables after the game. Those Mickey Mouse watches are pretty valuable today. :dude:

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 Posted: Sat Feb 15th, 2020 06:45 pm

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Wow...great read 47. The young man sounds like he has his head on straight and I am wishing him the very best career at OU.

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 Posted: Sun Feb 16th, 2020 05:13 pm

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WaddysWagon wrote:
When I see Gruver mentioned it always makes me think of "Dead Solid Perfect" by Dan Jenkins.
There was a day when most of our Texasperated recruits came from small towns in West Texas. One of my favorites was Carl McAdams.

We may be one of the few people here who have read that book. Did you read Semi-Tough too?

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 Posted: Mon Feb 17th, 2020 09:15 pm

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47Straight wrote:
WaddysWagon wrote: There was a day when most of our Texasperated recruits came from small towns in West Texas. One of my favorites was Carl McAdams.Carl McAdams was from White Deer, as was Jim Weatherall.  When Carl signed with the NY Jets, part of the deal was that the Jets would buy the motel in White Deer that Carl's folks owned.  So there was a time in the 60s when the New York Jets owned the only motel in White Deer Texas.



Great story. There have been numerous players through the years from the Panhandle of Texas. Most were from Amarillo. Three of my favorites small town Texas panhadle players were the "three Rickys" that played in the mid to late '60s.

Ricky Goodwin (Pampa), Ricky Burgess (Dumas) and Ricky Heatherington (Dumas). All were really good players for us. Not Weatherall and McAdams level, but darn good.

Last edited on Mon Feb 17th, 2020 09:16 pm by Pneumonia Downs Nag

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 Posted: Tue Feb 18th, 2020 01:01 pm

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I read Semi Tough as well as Baja Oklahoma. I loved Jenkins'books. His characterization of quintessential Texas characters was spot on.


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