By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Tyler Johnson is used people coming up and asking him for autographs. It kind of comes with the territory of being an Oklahoma State football player.
Wednesday, Johnson was the one asking for autographs and high-fives as he watched the Special Olympics powerlifting competition inside the Oklahoma State weight room.
“It was exciting,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t put it into words. Seeing these guys having a great time, they had me fired up.”
“I’ve said it before, the greatest gift you can give somebody is your time,” former Oklahoma State defensive end Cooper Bassett said. “I’m glad coach (Rob) Glass asked me to help. It’s fun for us just to watch them compete.”
With guys like Johnson, Bassett and former Cowboy offensive lineman Lane Taylor on hand, there was plenty of star power — and none of it involved any of the gridiron stars.
“These kids are the real stars,” Johnson said. “They look up to what we do as football players and for me, it gave me a perspective to looking up at what they do. I got to see from their perspective and it was a privilege to look at them today and help out.”
Make no mistake, the athletes knew they were the stars of the show. Even with the eyes of Bassett and Taylor on him, Catoosa’s Seth Vanover didn’t blink under the pressure — putting up a whopping 320 pounds on the bench press.
“It feels good. It felt pretty good,” Vanover said. “My goal was to score a 1,250 or maybe 1,300 (for all three events).”
“There’s a couple of competitors out here that are putting up some numbers that would rival mine,” Bassett said. “It looks like I’ve got to hit the weight room a little bit harder. These guys are trying to give me a run for my money.”
Vanover may have put up the biggest numbers among the dozens of athletes in this year’s competition. But it wasn’t about who could lift the most, instead who could lift each other’s spirits the most.
The winner by a landslide was the Special Olympians of course, despite Johnson’s efforts to keep everybody “jazzed up” — a duty he took seriously Tuesday as arguably the most vocal of the Oklahoma State crew.
“We really do have a blast,” Bassett said. “There’s kind of a rivalry between the coaches and volunteers to see who can hype up the kids the best, but to see one of these athletes compete in their event and record a personal best — to see that glowing pride of accomplishment is pretty awesome.”
“We look forward to this every year,” Oklahoma State strength and conditioning coach Rob Glass said. “A lot of players always ask, ‘Hey, when is the Special Olympics powerlifting?’ They always love helping.”
It’s often said that a picture can be worth a thousand words — and no doubt Johnson and the Cowboy volunteers took their fair share of pictures throughout the day.
But it’s those photos, coupled with a few incredible performances, that will linger into the fall for Johnson.
“It motivates me,” Johnson said. “I’m going to share this moment with (my teammates) and I’m going to be able to tell those guys, ‘Man, these guys got after it, today.’ It was fun to watch and it gives you that warm feeling inside to know that anything is possible.”