By Nick Snow
CNHI News Service
STILLWATER — Moving closer to home is supposed to make someone more comfortable, right?
There is Mom’s home cooking, weekend trips to the favorite watering hole, and if you play football for Oklahoma State, dozens of friends and family members in the stands wearing your jersey each game.
But for Oklahoma State safety and Tulsa native Shamiel Gary, that wasn’t the case last season when he transferred from Wyoming.
“It’s always a little rough when you go to a new environment and meet new people,” Gary said. “I might have known two people (in Stillwater), but it’s always a little different when you’re trying to talk to new coaches and new players.”
Not knowing many people, Gary would often find himself in the film room by himself late at night. He’d go over mistakes he made and just try to find some way to fit in with his teammates.
“Shamiel is very quite and very reserved,” Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said. “The biggest thing that I’ve seen change in Shamiel from last year to this year is that he’s playing with so much more confidence.”
The source of that confidence? Having a year’s experience playing in Oklahoma State’s system.
“I just was able to get some more snaps and finally trusting myself,” Gary said. “Getting acclimated to Stillwater and being close to all my teammates has helped a lot.”
It took Gary a while to learn to trust himself. Gary spent most of last season watching Daytawion Lowe run the defensive secondary and just following Lowe’s orders.
Now, he’s sharing the play-calling responsibilities and learning to communicate more effectively with his senior counterpart.
“It’s like a well-played orchestra back there,” Spencer said. “They might give somebody just a subtle hand gesture or a subtle nod with their eyes to tell each other what’s going on. ... Last year, Shamiel always looked to Daytawion to get that reassurance or to get that nod. He was looking for that confidence. Now if you watch it, they’re going back and forth with each other. They’re feeding off each other a little bit more and there’s a lot more balance with those two than there was last year.”
“It always helps being around somebody that’s been here for four or five years,” Gary said. “He knows the ropes and I was just trying to improve in every aspect of my game.”
It’s been a gradual process for Gary. One that started by just earning a scholarship — and eventually a starting spot — following his transfer from Wyoming.
“It kind of was just an evolution,” Spencer said. “From last year early in the year, I think of some big plays he gave up. ... There’s just so many practices you can get and so many looks you can get on the field, I think it was just a graduation. It’s all about what happens Saturday, but if you go back and look at it, it’s just kind of the maturation of a senior player. He had a great game Saturday and a lot of it had to do with him learning from past mistakes.”
Aiding Gary in fixing those mistakes has been the help of two relatively new coaches to Oklahoma State — Tim Duffy and Van Malone.
The two have taken Gary under their wing and not only pushed the senior to be a better player, but instilled the confidence in him to understand that sometimes the reward is worth the risk.
“He’s getting some really good coaching back there,” Spencer said. “Coach Duffy and coach Malone do an unbelievable job and coached him really hard. I think he’s comfortable in his role, but he’s also got the confidence to stay sound and not take too many risks and get on that edge where he can make a productive play when he needs to.”
While Gary will still occasionally make a few mistakes, the senior is finally starting to look and feel comfortable in his own skin.
And it’s that kind of personal growth that could make opposing quarterbacks leery of throwing anywhere near the former Booker T. Washington product.
“I was just not confident in my abilities and not comfortable,” Gary said. “I felt good after the season and I felt good going into the spring. I started to train more in the summer time and during two-a-days, and now I’m just trying to take what I’ve learned during that time into the rest of the season.”