STILLWATER, Okla. —
Caleb Lavey may not hear his named called during next spring’s NFL Draft. The Oklahoma State senior linebacker has come to terms with the fact that he’s not the most athletic or talented player.
But like a story ripped right out of a Hollywood movie — Rudy anybody? — it’s not the skill set that sets Lavey apart from his Cowboy teammates. It’s his heart, determination and leadership.
And on Monday, the Big 12 Conference recognized the OSU senior from Celina, Texas, as the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week.
“He’s like the heartbeat. It’s good to see him get that recognition he got,” OSU defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said. “But if you talk to him, he’d probably shrug it off. Just like he shrugs it off when people talk about what he doesn’t do for us. All he knows is he’s going to get ready and play his best game the next week. That’s all that’s on his mind.”
Lavey recorded 11 tackles, two tackles for loss and a half sack in Oklahoma State’s 21-3 win over Mississippi State in Houston’s Reliant Stadium.
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound linebacker was a key cog to the Cowboys’ defense holding the Bulldogs to three points — and allowing MSU to cross midfield just five times in the game, only three times after the first quarter.
“I was glad to hear it this morning. It’s pretty cool, and I’m very honored. At the same time, when you’re playing week in and week out, you kind of have to move on from Mississippi State and look forward to UTSA,” said the humble Lavey.
Potentially helping Lavey on the field is the lack of pressure in the classroom. Lavey already has his graduate degree and is actually pursuing his master’s degree while finishing his final season with the Cowboys.
“He’s a B+ student, so he’s going to take pride doing well in those classes, just like he did in his undergrad courses,” Spencer said. “Whoever hires him, they have no idea what they’re getting. Somebody is going to pluck him up and he’ll be a champion in whatever he decides to do. Somebody is going to hire an unbelievable guy, an unbelievable talent and an unbelievable person.”
Understandably, senior linebacker Shaun Lewis was the more heralded linebacker for the Cowboys heading into the season — receiving preseason All-Big 12 honors — after being named to last year’s All-Big 12 Second Team by the media. The 5-foot-11, 225-pound veteran from Missouri City, Texas, did have seven tackles — three for a loss — and a sack, in which Lavey helped finish.
But it’s the combination of Lewis and Lavey in the middle of the defense — both leading by example and vocally — that has talents like defensive lineman James Castleman excited for this year’s defense.
“I noticed a little difference about him at this game. Usually he talks on the field — that’s the way he does it — well on the sideline he was also jumping, hollering, screaming at us to get us hyped for the game,” Castleman said. “And it was first down for our offense. We were still going to have a couple of downs before we even go out there. I think the intensity that he brought to that game is what helped him earn that honor.”
But Castleman was also a little jealous of Lavey and Lewis when they came up with a sack of the Mississippi State quarterback.
“You get a little jealous. These guys are all skinny and fast, and we’re big, yet we still have less ground to go — while they have to go further and still get the sack,” Castleman said. “But there’s nothing we can do about it. I’m just glad they got the sack rather than him get away and throw a touchdown or something.”
It’s become something expectant of the OSU defense. To have a vocal leader that may not be the most talented of players, but leads the team by doing things the Cowboy way.
“We’ve been very fortunate here that we’ve always had two or three guys a year that really fit Oklahoma State football — just a pure Cowboy. Cooper Bassett was that way,” said Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, who added Lavey was the team’s MVP against the Bulldogs. “Caleb’s got some skill, but he’s not gonna look like those guys playing on Sundays at that particular position.
“But he does everything we ask him all the time — yes sir, no sir — (has) great leadership, and he’s tough. He kind of fits that role of what we’ve been fortunate to have here, one or two of those guys every year, because they’re really the strength of your program. When times get tough, you have to rely on those guys, really, to bring the team along.”