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January 2, 2012
SAN ANTONIO - Taylor McNamara, the No. 2-rated tight end recruit in the country, had some pretty choice words for Norman, Okla., at registration day for the Army All-American Bowl.
"There's nothing there," he said.
This is not a tale of a Texas recruit sucker-punching the Sooners. McNamara, a San Diego native, meant those words as a compliment. And, he says, it's the main reason he's taking his talents from one of the nation's top destinations to Oklahoma.
"I want a place where I can focus," he said.
"Norman, Oklahoma is a great place, but there's not a lot to do there. That's what makes it perfect for me. I need a place I can focus on the things I need to focus on, school and football. In California there's just so much else to do.
"I've talked to a lot of the Cali kids that have went there and they all said the same things."
It's a most unusual pipeline.
McNamara hails from San Diego (Calif.) Westview. He's just the latest Southern California recruit to make his way to Oklahoma.
Running back Brennan Clay (of San Diego), wide receiver Kenny Stills (Encinitas) and defensive back Tony Jefferson (Chula Vista) were all sophomores on this year's team, calling themselves the Cali Trio.
The trio will help McNamara adjust.
Culture shock? You bet - especially for a kid who showed up to the premier all-star event with skinny jeans, shaggy hair and a hang-loose no-care-in-the-world attitude seemingly more befitting of a surfer than a football player.
But don't be fooled. McNamara knows how to play football, especially tight end. And he hopes going to Oklahoma will help him be part of another pipeline.
From recent star Jermaine Gresham (2010) to as far back as Keith Jackson (1988), the program has history of producing first-round tight ends in the NFL draft.
"Oklahoma has always used the position so I think it will be a great place for me to show what I can do," McNamara said. "They say they can use me the same way."
McNamara originally committed to Arizona and looked at other Pac-12 schools. And while the conference's recent push to spread offenses intrigued him, in the end, he felt he'd rather have a chance to play in the Dust Bowl than the Rose Bowl.
"All the new coaches have made it interesting, but I just felt Oklahoma was the best fit for me," he said. "I want to go somewhere where I can compete with the best everyday and that's what I'm going to do."
He may not have a choice. In Norman, Oklahoma, there apparently aren't any other options.