By Nick Snow
STILLWATER —Oklahoma State cornerback Ashton Lampkin could have gone to bigger programs — Arizona State, Texas A&M or Kansas State. All of those teams wanted the now-sophomore to come play corner for them.
He chose Oklahoma State. Why? Because he wanted to be the starting cornerback.
“It’s a once in a lifetime thing for you,” Lampkin said of being a starter. “It’s what everybody strives for.”
That was before Wagoner’s Kevin Peterson changed his commitment from Oklahoma to Oklahoma State two years ago. Before Tyler Patmon transferred from Kansas this spring. Before there was much competition.
But that’s the thing about Lampkin. He doesn’t let anything stand in his way — competition, friendship, nothing. And now as the team goes through fall camp he’s slowly closing in on that starting role.
“It’s very good competition between me and a good buddy of mine, Kevin Peterson,” Lampkin said. “We’re just competing out there every day and working real hard. You just hope the best for both of us.”
That’s not to say that Lampkin hasn’t had his chances to be the starter. He played in every game of the season last year and even had an interception in the opener against Savannah State.
But as Peterson’s stock continued to rise, Lampkin couldn’t keep pace and watched his playing time dwindle later in the season.
“That was tough,” Lampkin said. “I mean, you’re happy for your buddy but at the same time you want to be out there. Nobody likes to sit on the bench. You want to be out there playing.”
It was in those late season games where Lampkin found hope. He’d study film and see mistakes, making a vow to correct them before the start of the next season.
Now, as the Cowboys continue their fall camp leading up to the first game against Mississippi State, Lampkin is hoping all that hard work will pay off.
“It was very important to get in and know how a game goes because college football is so much different from high school football,” Lampkin said. “Coming in as a freshman and playing was great. Now, depending on how this camp goes, I feel like I’m basically working up to trying to get that starting spot.”
It isn’t just Lampkin or new Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer that has noticed Lampkin’s improvement from last season. Lampkin has caught the eye of Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy — a sign that things could be looking up for the sophomore from Arlington, Texas.
“I know Ashton Lampkin is physically,” Gundy said. “We’re a week away from whose starting at this point.
“(Peterson and Lampkin) will be better than they were last year. We had to rely on them some last year, and it’s really scary to have a true freshman out there on the edge. They have both developed well, but they still have to learn to mature and play hard all the time. That is normally the last thing for a guy to learn and how to compete on every play.”
Competing on every play is something that has take Lampkin time to adjust to. But now he’s not only competing against Oklahoma State’s talented receivers — he’s also going against two other players vying for the same spot.
“I love it,” Lampkin said. “Things can get real competitive and it just brings out the best in you. Last year, we were a little bit passive and I think that could have contributed to guys taking plays off. This year, we’re more aggressive and you can really tell all the guys are out there competing for a spot — no matter who’s in front of them. It’s a new season and nobody’s job is safe.”
And that bond between Lampkin and Peterson — two friends competing for the same position? Surprisingly, it continues to grow stronger with each day of competition.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Peterson said. “We’re out there each day pushing each other because we want to get better. It doesn’t matter which one of us starts, we know that the other one will be right there pushing us to be better. And if we don’t get better, then the other one will jump right in and take that spot.”
Nick Snow is a sports reporter for The Stillwater NewsPress.