By Jason Elmquist
CNHI News Service
STILLWATER – With the exception of bowl games and occasional high school state championship games, the opportunity to play in an NFL stadium is rare for college football players.
But that doesn’t make it any less of a treat when the athletes get the chance to play a regular season contest in the confines of a professional arena. That’s what the Oklahoma State Cowboys get to do today when they play Mississippi State at Reliant Stadium, home of the Houston Texans.
“I can’t wait to play there. I’ve never played there,” OSU senior defensive tackle Calvin Barnett said. “I’ve only played in a dome a few times in my life. I can’t wait. I want to see how it really is.”
With so many players on the Cowboy roster hailing from the state of Texas, it is bound to be that some of them have had the opportunity to play in the NFL dome in Houston. Senior linebacker Shaun Lewis, a native of Missouri City, Texas, is one of those who have been fortunate enough to have already played in Reliant Stadium.
“I played in Reliant Stadium my junior year (of high school) for the state championship. It’s an awesome stadium, and I’m excited about it,” Lewis said.
OSU played at University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals, in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl. For many players, the challenge will be to acclimate themselves with a stadium that can seat more than 71,000 fans, compared to Boone Pickens Stadium, which holds 60,000.
“Our coaches do a good job of helping us get adapted to the stadium and its surroundings,” Lewis said. “We’re at ease wherever we go, whether it’s somewhere we haven’t been before or Reliant Stadium, it doesn’t really matter.”
This game will be slightly different for Lewis, however. The Houston Texans recently revealed new video boards at either end of the field that are bigger than the video board hanging above the field at Cowboy Stadium in Dallas.
“As a defensive player we actually use that to our advantage, because they show replays and we can see where a play got away from us and just able to use that to see what happened and make corrections,” Lewis said. “We actually will be able to use it for good purposes.”
While the players are looking forward to stepping on the field at Reliant Stadium for a neutral game contest, OSU coach Mike Gundy doesn’t view it in a similar light.
“It’s a road game for us,” Gundy said. “There’s a big advantage of playing in this stadium (Boone Pickens Stadium) and we’re not playing here. So it’s basically a road game.”
– Jason Elmquist is the sports editor for the Stillwater NewsPress.