NORMAN, Okla. — A revitalized program an hour north of his Norman residence captivated Ryan Broyles.
His football career eventually went another route with one phone call but the then-Norman High receiver still remembers the bond he felt with the place he once saw as his future home — Oklahoma State.
“Oklahoma State was the first instate school to offer me and I think at that point in my recruitment, I knew I wanted to stay close to home,” Broyles said. “I went on a few official visits before my senior year when they did offer me and a few unofficials.
“I enjoyed my time with the strength staff, and the weight room was getting updated. The locker rooms were getting updated. It seemed like they were in a good groove there. So, I was enticed to that and I was excited about it.”
Broyles fondly recalls he and his high school friends taking myriad trips to Stillwater, Oklahoma, where the No. 7-ranked Sooners will compete Saturday for the 114th Bedlam meeting.
Broyles envisioned himself at Oklahoma State when the program was still undergoing a facelift.
Mike Gundy was just a year into his head-coaching tenure at the time. He was building toward an eventual 7-6 season and Independence Bowl victory in 2006, however, while his then-Oklahoma State receivers coach Gunter Brewer courted Broyles to help further their climb to national relevance.
Following his final season with NHS, Broyles pledged the Cowboys in mid-January of 2007.
He remains adamant he was completely bought into Oklahoma State in that moment.
“It was a good fit for me,” he said. “They were throwing the ball around a little bit. And I was excited to be a part of that and I was excited to get an offer from an instate school.
“So when I committed, I was fully in.”
A call from OU assistant coach Cale Gundy less than 24 hours later made Broyles quickly rethink his decision.
OU extended an offer to the Oklahoma State bound-receiver and pitched him the benefits of playing for the then-reigning Big 12 champions.
"You want to win championships, come play here,” Broyles recalls Cale Gundy telling him. “You want to have the opportunity to go to the NFL, come play here. If you want state of the art workout facilities, eating plans, come play here.”
The pitch aged just fine.
Since Broyles signed his letter of intent in 2007, the Sooners have won eight Big 12 titles, appeared in a BCS national championship game, three College Football Playoff semifinals, produced three Heisman Trophy winners and 66 NFL draft picks — including Broyles with the 54th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft to the Detroit Lions.
OU is also 10-2 against the Cowboys, who kept fighting for Broyles’ signature despite the Sooners’ push.
“As an 18-year-old kid talking to Oklahoma State, they offer you and you're all excited,” Broyles said, “and then Oklahoma offers you and you’re even more excited.”
Broyles backed off his Oklahoma State commitment within the next few weeks to give his verbal to the Sooners but flipped back to his original choice.
“I feel like I'm a loyal person,” Broyles said. “[Oklahoma State] spent a lot of time recruiting me, I gave them my word and I started feeling guilty.
“It's just one of those deals, you've got a lot of emotions. Kids dream of having scholarships and playing at big-time schools and then you just don't think about the pressures of making a full commitment and going through with that.”
It was a process the then-high school student was ready to be over with.
Broyles talked with Cale Gundy and Brewer multiple times a week over the phone and in person leading up to signing day.
Cale Gundy ultimately landed Broyles’ letter of intent on Feb. 7, 2007.
What followed was an unpleasant phone call between Broyles and Brewer.
“I actually called [Brewer] that morning right after I signed because I didn't want any more pressure,” Broyles said.
“... He gave me a couple cuss words here and there. He wasn't too happy. But I'll tell you this, as of today, my mother still talks to him, I still talk to him. I follow what he's doing. And there's no hard feelings.”
Broyles parlayed his choice into a decorated OU career.
He became the program’s all-time career leader in receiving yards (4,586), receptions (349) and receiving touchdowns (45).
His 349 catches at OU set a new NCAA career record in 2011; though, it was broken in 2014 by Justin Hardy.
Broyles spent three seasons with the Lions from 2012-2015 and is now a member of the XFL’s Dallas Renegades, led by Broyles’ college coach Bob Stoops.
And the Bedlam recruiting battle for Broyles’ services is much easier to laugh about now than it was nearly 13 years ago.
“There's a lot of emotions on both ends,” Broyles said. “It was a high-stress situation but calling a coach and saying 'hey, I'm not gonna be there for the next four years,' was a big step. But I was excited to sign with OU at that time. So, it was mixed emotions and I went onto high school that day and I just started living my life again.”
Buettner writes for The Norman Transcript, a CNHI News Service publication.