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December 29, 2013

Aaron Colvin fights through injuries to keep defense together

Untitled Document


NEW ORLEANS -- At a table in the back of the room of the New Orleans Downtown Marriott at the Convention Center, Aaron Colvin is talking about the previous 12 games of his senior season.

It has been nearly a month since he last played through injuries in the final regular season game of his career, and he's taken time to rest, recover, refocus. He's just days from a date with Alabama at the Superdome in the Sugar Bowl, and he's aware of the challenge the Crimson Tide offense presents.

"They're great everywhere, man," he says. "They can run the ball very well, and then their play-action passes are some of the best we've seen."

This is the kind of game, the kind of stage, Colvin wanted for his last. It's the season he came back for following a junior year many thought made him a surefire first day NFL Draft pick.

SCOOPHD: COLVIN STANDS TALL THROUGH THE UPS AND DOWNS



It was only the second year he was allowed to play his natural position, cornerback, and the first year he was counted on to take away opposing team's best receivers.

Just as he did at Owasso (Okla.) High School, he excelled at it. That 2012 season was his best. He notched 61 tackles, including two sacks against in-state rival Oklahoma State, and picked off four passes while breaking up 11.

For his efforts, he was named to the All-Big 12 first team. Following Oklahoma's 2012 season finale in the Cotton Bowl, Colvin had a very rare and difficult decision to make.

He could leave school early and chance not finishing his degree or chase glory and riches immediately. Most would've pursued the latter.

***

"Whatever the case may be, it is," Colvin says. "I've got to deal with it now. I've had some unfortunate injuries this year, but at the same time I'm glad I came back. I have no regrets, and that's what I didn't want to have. I didn't want to have any 'What ifs?' if I didn't."

As early as Oklahoma's third game of the season, Colvin was benched by injury. He wouldn't play two months later when the Sooners took on Iowa State at home.

He missed playing on Senior Day, his last game on Owen Field.

Colvin's body had taken a beating over the course of his career but none like this season.

His shoulder has caused him to wince and grimace in pain. Turf toe, a phrase used to describe a sprain around the big toe, limited his mobility and agility. But he's still managed to show flashes of the kind of player he was last season and the kind of player he could be still in the NFL.

There was that player against Kansas when he made eight tackles. There was that defensive back when he recorded seven tackles, an interception and recovered a fumble in OU's win against Texas Tech. The speed, footwork, the technique -- it was all there.

"With Aaron, I think what's going to wow you is just his hips," senior safety Gabe Lynn said. "Some guys are real big. Some guys are real fast. And he has speed and strength, but I think his best thing is his hips and flexibility. That kind of gets overlooked."

Not anymore. Not after OU's game against Kansas State.

***

"I'm going to be upfront about it," Colvin says. "Injuries have been tough to deal with. It's been very, very frustrating at times just to try to get over the physical pain I've been in sometimes, just playing through things."

Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops knew what kind of shape his best cover corner was in, and he wanted to give him as much of an opportunity as possible to rest. That's why he didn't play against Iowa State, and the reason Stoops wanted to limit Colvin's play in Manhattan, Kan., against the Wildcats.

At least limit him as much as he could.

At first, the plan to use Colvin sparingly was working. He played on third-down in passing situations in lieu of sophomore Cortez Johnson. Then KSU wide out Tyler Lockett forced Colvin onto the field.

By the end of the first half Lockett had torched Oklahoma's secondary, and Johnson in particular, for over 200 yards receiving and kept Kansas State in the game. OU held just a slim lead at halftime.

It was then that Stoops asked Colvin if he could go in full-time for the second half. It was as apparent then as it is now that Colvin had to be on the field to cover the opposing team's best. OU was helpless around the numbers and over the top if he didn't.

"Tyler was just presenting some problems for everybody," Colvin says. "When that happened, I just kind of took it upon myself to go out there and try to guard him. Whatever the team needs me to do, whatever Coach Mike (Stoops) needs to me to do, I'll do it."

Colvin didn't shut Lockett down. He slowed him down. He allowed the other 10 men on defense to better perform their jobs, which was all that was needed.

Later corner back Zack Sanchez came up with in the interception that sealed the win for Oklahoma after KSU quarterback Jake Waters was forced to throw away from Lockett. That has been the benefit of Colvin being on the field this season. When he plays, the defense plays better.

With microphones and cameras about him in the back of this hotel room, Colvin answers he's aware Alabama boasts receivers every bit as good as Lockett. Sophomore wide receiver Amari Cooper recorded 1,000 yards receiving as a freshman and averages more yardage per catch this season than last.

Whether he's on Cooper or not, Colvin realizes he has to be the man to set the edge in the secondary, and it's a burden he proudly carries.

"I'm a captain, and so being a captain I have to take responsibility," he said. "Whatever it is I need to do, that's what I'm going to do."



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