Norman, Okla. The Oklahoma football coaching staff didn't think much of high school standout Garrick McGee, but McGee thought the world of the Sooners.
So when McGee packed his bags for Arizona State, it was with a touch of bitterness.
Now, McGee is back at OU with a little experience and a better understanding of the Sooners' decision not to recruit him out of nearby Tulsa Washington High.
"I think I was disappointed they didn't want me," McGee told the Big Eight Skywriters on Friday. "When I grew up, I realized why."
See, McGee fancied himself a quarterback, while the Sooners projected him as a defensive back. Part of their decision probably stemmed from the fact Cale Gundy had just completed his freshman season at Oklahoma. Gundy went on to rewrite just about every OU passing record kept.
But Gundy is gone -- he ran out of eligibility after last season -- and McGee, a junior transfer from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, is back where he thought he belonged all along.
"They had Gundy," McGee said. "He was playing as a freshman, and I was coming out a year later. I understand that now. I was always an OU fan. I always watched them on TV. When you watch them on TV all the time, sure, you'd like to play for them."
McGee thought he would like to play for KU, too. He visited just two schools -- Kansas and Oklahoma.
"My dad and I went up there to watch them play," McGee said of the Jayhawks. "They've got two real good guards, and their whole offensive line is coming back. I thought, 'This could be a real good team.' But for the next two years, I decided Oklahoma would be the best situation for me."
When OU turned cool in the recruiting process, McGee latched on to Arizona State, which coveted him as a quarterback. He played in five games as a freshman, starting three.
Then his grades fell. He was linked to and later cleared in a shooting. And he was found guilty on a theft charge and sentenced to three years of probation.
"I wasn't a wild man. I was just young, a fresh old freshman," McGee said. "The situation at Arizona just made me realize football won't always be there for me. I was playing on a Monday, and by Tuesday it was all cut off.
"I remember one time I was supposed to start against the University of Washington. They were No. 1 in the country, and my parents were going to fly out. I had to call them up and tell them I wasn't even going to play."
McGee was never dismissed from the team, but he felt a change of scenery was in order. So he enrolled at NEO. There, he was just close enough to Norman that he heard from his share of Sooner fans.
"From the start of the recruiting season, I think most people thought I was coming to Oklahoma," McGee said. "I'd be at the store with my mother and they'd say, 'We'll be looking for you next year at OU.'"
McGee completed 132 of 255 passes for 1,898 yards at NEO. He was named a NJCAA honorable mention All-American and was rated as one of the top 15 juco players in the nation.
Darned right the Sooners were interested, even if they weren't before.
"We had Cale here, and we just didn't look at him hard enough (in high school)," OU coach Gary Gibbs said. "We made a mistake."
More on Oklahoma, page 2C