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February 22, 2012
Former walk-on Ratterree still fights for shot in NFL
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Trent Ratterree is a longshot to make the NFL. But in this day and age, it seems longshots are making a comeback.
While former Sooners such as Ryan Broyles and Ronnell Lewis will be poked and prodded this week in Indianapolis during the NFL Combine, Ratterree, the former walk-on tight end from Weatherford, Okla., will be back home in Norman.
His invite never came.
Ratterree, who was able to find playing time alongside former Sooner and Cincinnati Bengal's Pro Bowl tight end Jermaine Gresham, is used to overcoming odds.
Consider the NFL his next big hurdle.
While several former players worked out with specialized combine trainers across the country in anticipation of this week, Ratterree has been living in Norman, working out at OU's facilities, waiting for March 14, his time to shine at OU's Pro Day.
Ratterree doesn't have an agent to foot the bill for tens of thousands of dollars to one of the country's elite combine training facilities. But he wakes up every morning and meets with graduate assistant Jordan Simmons at 10am.
"We lift and we do a lot of explosive stuff and really just train fast twitch muscles to get them going," said Ratterree of his daily routine. "Also lifting and just trying to get more upper body strength for running and jumping. Then we run routes and do things for conditioning. It's pretty good. I actually started boxing too. It's really fun. It's hard though."
For Ratterree, he's used to being put on the spot, as he will be during OU's Pro Day. He even likes the glare of the spotlight.
He's already experienced a little bit of the process when he traveled to Arizona to play in the Casino Del Sol College All-Star Game.
"The All-Star game I played in, there were over 100 scouts there," he explained. "You have 50 scouts on one side of the field and 50 scouts on the other side of the field.
"You'd think it would be a high pressure situation but something like that, that's what you want. That's what I wanted. A hundred scouts watching and I wanted to be able to show them what I can do. I definitely believe in myself."
Maybe it's the part of his personality that shut out the doubters and allowed a skinny kid from western Oklahoma to walk-on to a school like OU, but Ratterree doesn't get sidetracked focusing on the negatives.
Ratterree talks about his all-star game experience in a very positive light. So much so, I'm not sure if he even cared it was a minor all-star game sponsored by a local casino and not the Senior Bowl.
He even talks glowingly about teams from the Canadian Football League being interested in him.
"I would prefer NFL but I'm not above CFL at all," he said. "It's good football. I've watched it a lot more over the last year because of looking at opportunities in other areas. I've watched it a lot over the last year.
"There's good athletes up there just like there are here and the appeal of living in a different area is kind of appealing to me, especially some of those areas that are more mountainous. I'm not a hunter, but I fish a lot and I like to hike and camp. I'm really into that. I can backpack. I hiked the Wichitas all the time."
None of this should suggest Ratterree is a football player with his head in the clouds. In fact, he's currently finishing up his final six hours this semester while he trains in Norman.
"I'll be done," he said. "It's a science degree but I did it through multidisciplinary studies but I had botany and zoology and I really liked it. I love science."
Ratterree is someone who is realistic, but he also sees the positives in himself and he wants the NFL to see those positives too.
Ratterree's belief in himself extends to the fact he's been training in Norman and not at a swanky facility in Arizona.
"The guy I work out with here, Jordan Simmons, I think he's every bit as good as anybody else you can go to. While he's young, he's still very knowledgeable and very skilled," said Ratterree. "I have a lot of faith in him and I also have a lot of faith in my own work ethic and the way I handle different pressures and different adversities."
On March 14, Ratterree will be faced with his next big pressure situation.
"Pro day is a big day for sure," said Ratterree. "I need to come out and run a good 40 and really just test well and show that I've worked and how far I've come from the season. It's not so much about running some great time like a 4.5, which I know I'm not going to, but it's more about coming out and showing over the last two months, I've worked my tail off to run this speed.
"If I've worked that hard to do this, think about how hard I'll work to be as good as I need to be."
Ratterree says these are the situations he wants to be in. They are the situations he's overcome time and time again while at OU.
The former walk-on finally earned his scholarship at Oklahoma. Now the question becomes: Can he prove them all wrong once again?
"I definitely think so," answered Ratterree. "I hope. I don't want to say too much and eat my words, but I just need one opportunity and that's all. I think that I could give a team exactly what they want or need."