By Jason Elmquist
CNHI News Service
DALLAS – With the music of Michael Jackson pumping through the speakers Saturday at Highland Park High School’s football stadium, Oklahoma State University senior defensive end Nigel Nicholas was returned to his childhood and couldn’t help himself.
With the Cowboy players lined up across the field to stretch, the senior from Rossville, Ga., walked the few yards to midfield and broke out in dance – to the amusement to both players and coaches.
“Michael is a great legend and I remember my mom used to always play it around the house and we were always dancing to it. So it just brought back old memories,” Nicholas said. “People were actually making fun of the moves, though. I thought I did a pretty good job out there. But it was just all in good fun.”
Defensive coordinator Bill Young added of the dance: “He’s got a little more rhythm than I thought he had. Certainly a lot more than me.”
According to senior Cooper Bassett, the practice had started with country music, but coach Mike Gundy elected to switch it to Michael Jackson for a more upbeat atmosphere.
“I’m a big Michael Jackson fan,” Gundy said. “A lot of times, some players that are this age don’t say anything but as you watch them, they all know the songs. They just don’t really like to admit it. But we’re big Michael Jackson fans.”
As for Nicholas’ dance routine, it was well received. Though linebacker Lyndell Johnson claims he could have done even better.
“He’s got a few moves, but I’ve got him though,” Johnson said. “He’s not better than me, and he knows it. He already knows what I’ve got.”
Giving back to the Dallas community
Part of OSU’s trip to the Dallas area for the Heart of Dallas Bowl is to give back to the community gracious enough to host the bowl game.
“This is a part of the development of our football team,” Gundy said. “We try to really be involved with the community back home. We’re so lucky as players and coaches to be in the situation we are – to be on a team, to be in a bowl game. There are so many people who don’t have the opportunity to do it, so it’s good that they recognize that and give something back.”
Following Saturday’s practice, the Cowboys were split up with some players hosting a youth football clinic for area kids, while others went to the North Texas Food Bank.
“For me, I can remember when I was little kid and football players were my heroes – it didn’t matter who they were, that’s who (I) looked up to,” said Bassett, who has been a part of community service events in the five years he’s been at OSU. “I know there’s people out here that really look up to us and think we’re great – even though we’re just normal people. But it’s great to go out there because I’ve always felt the greatest gift you can give is your time. Just going out there and saying hi and helping however we can is just a great thing.”
Nine Cowboys volunteered an hour of their time at the North Texas Food Bank. The North Texas Food Bank was started in 1982 and provides food for more than 100,000 people in 13 counties annually. More than 38,000 volunteers contribute to the program and facility, and the Cowboys did their part at the 72,000-square foot facility Saturday.
“You never know how good you have it until you help somebody else out, and we learned that doing this today and it made us feel good,” wide receiver Isaiah Anderson said. “It’s good to represent your school and family in a positive manner. Coach Gundy preaches that to us all the time so we just make sure we exemplify that in the community and spread the wealth around.”
The Cowboy contingent formed an assembly line to fill sacks for the “Food For Kids” program. The food the players sacked, which included juice boxes, cereal, nuts, fruit and cereal bars, will be put in backpacks and distributed to area schools. The food will help sustain its recipient, who has little or no food available at home, over the weekend until he or she returns to school. The food bank estimates that it fills 11,000 such bags per week.