By Nick Gholson
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Pac-10 recruits seldom show up for the Oil Bowl anymore.
Twenty years ago, Lawton Ike running back Dwight McFadden stopped off here on his way to USC. Two years later, Skip Hicks of Burkburnett played one more time before the home fans before heading off to bigger and better things at UCLA. You can count on one hand the number of Pac-10 success stories that come out of the Oil Bowl.
This year, however, it takes a couple of fingers just to point out the Oregon State guys. Jabral Johnson and Tyrequek Zimmerman teamed up at Lawton High last fall and helped the Wolverines to a 12-1 season that ended with a double overtime loss to eventual state champ Tulsa Union in the Class 6A semifinals. Now those two will team up again this week to try and help the Oklahoma all-stars beat Texas at the 74th Oil Bowl. After that, Johnson and Zimmerman will head off to the Pacific Northwest to be college teammates at Oregon State.
Landing this Lawton pair was both a surprise and a blessing to the Oklahoma coaching staff, offensive coordinator Craig Benson said. Oklahoma Oil Bowl coaches didn’t bother going after Johnson and Zimmerman because they thought they would have an early summer report date to college. When Lawton High coach Randy Breeze called to tell them that his guys didn’t have to be in Oregon until July 5, the Oil Bowl roster already was full.
But when Brigham Young signee Brian Rawlinson of Oologah was called away on a Morman missionary trip, Zimmerman took his place. About a week later, Deontay Wilson of Coweta dropped out of the game, and Johnson got a call. So the two Lawton High start will team up with fellow Wolverine Deaquan Wojciechowski once again Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.
Ironically, the three will be on the same side as Christian Hood and Richard Stanley, two Tulsa Union players who helped end their high school careers in a 48-41 double OT thriller last November.
Zimmerman, a 6-foot, 186-pound wide receiver, caught a 10-yard TD pass that gave Lawton a 7-0 lead over Union in the first overtime.
Johnson, a 6-foot-2, 218 pound linebacker, had 16 tackles and an interception in that loss.
Wojciechowski, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound running back, carried 35 times for 128 yards and two touchdowns.
Hood, a 5-foot-10, 175-pound safety, helped the Union cause with three interceptions.
“We had a good team. They had a good team. They just beat us in double overtime,” Johnson said.
Wojciechowski is taking the junior college route. Hood is headed to Division II Central Oklahoma.
Johnson and Zimmerman turned down some nice D-I offers to sign with Mike Riley, who has rejuvenated the Oregon State Program in the past eight years.
South Carolina was courting Zimmerman but missed out.
“They weren’t answering their phone, so I had to hit up Oregon State the next day,” he said.
Johnson made a verbal commitment to play for Arizona but felt jilted by the Wildcats and signed with OSU.
“When I went to Arizona, they showed me love, but once I committed, they stopped calling.” he said. “It’s like a girlfriend that you start showing less attention and then another guy comes along and sweet talks her. Of course, she will go to him.”
Johnson said the “lifetime contract” that Riley has to coach at his alma mater also figured into his decision. Riley is signed through the 2019 season and gets an extra year each time the Beavers make it to a bowl game.
“During the recruiting process, Texas Tech started talking to me, but I see Tommy Tuberville being more of an SEC guy even though he is at Tech right now. I wasn’t confident he’s going to stay at Tech, and if he leaves, that would screw me up, too,” he explained.
Zimmerman was a two-way player in high school. As a senior, he caught 37 passes for 619 yards and a dozen touchdowns while doubling up as a shutdown corner and making 61 tackles with 11 interceptions. He is a 4.4 guy who can squat more than 500 pounds.
“He embarrasses our offensive linemen,” Breeze once said. “He’s 100 pounds heavier on squat than any other player on our team.” Oregon State wants him at wide receiver. “He’s a home run receiver who excels as a deep, downfield threat. Theprostyle offense that Oregon State runs is perfect for him.”
The Lawton coach said Johnson “has the size and strength to stop the run at the line of scrimmage, but then the next play he is able to run and cover the fastest receiver.”
Both Johnson and Zimmerman are happy with their college choices. They are also happy to be able to play together in an all-star game. Neither hesitated about giving up a week of summer vacation to come here and play in the Texas heat.
“I’m in football shape, but I just have to get that football feeling again,” Zimmrman said.
“I love football, so when they called me up, it was like, ‘You know I will play.'” Texas always gets looked at as better than Oklahoma, so I am trying to show them that Oklahoma is just as good, if not better,” said Johnson, who is now a Texan himself. He is from a military family which the Army brought to Lawton. After graduation, they moved to Houston.
Johnson’s home may now be in Texas, but his heart is still in Oklahoma — at least for one more football game.