OU football: TV cameraman had front-row seat for Curtis Bolton's bolt from halftime locker room
Anthony West just wanted a place to rest and eat his barbecue sandwich.
Instead, he got a seat to one of the wildest sideshows in OU-Texas history.
When Curtis Bolton stormed out of the Oklahoma locker room during halftime last October, West saw it all. The linebacker bursting through the door, storming up the tunnel and heading out of the Cotton Bowl. The players and coach running after him a few seconds later. Everyone eventually returning to the locker room.
“It was the craziest 20 or 30 seconds that I can remember,” West said.
It was part of one of the craziest 24 hours in Oklahoma football history. After his defense gave up 45 points and his team lost to Texas, Lincoln Riley decided to make a change. Mike Stoops was out. Improvement was needed.
Now as the Sooners prepare to return to the Cotton Bowl, the wheels of change are humming. Alex Grinch has overhauled the defense, and the improvements are obvious.
That fateful day inside Fair Park forced Riley’s hand — and Bolton’s bolt foretold the coming storm.
But if not for West, the world may not have known about Bolton.
- Related to this story
- Article: College football's top rivalry? OU vs. Texas in Red River Showdown tops list
- Article: Gordon Brown was at the 1947 OU-Texas game and hasn't missed one since, until now
- Article: Red River Rivalry: Alex Grinch doesn't downplay the importance of OU-Texas
- Article: Texas game brought out the best in Seibert
- Article: OU vs. Texas football: Recent Red River Showdown lines against the spread
- Article: OU football: After a healthy stretch of blowouts, close games against Texas once again the norm
- Article: OU-Texas football: Three players to watch, two big questions, one wild prediction
- Article: Berry Tramel: Texas a prime upset pick, and the pressure's on Lincoln Riley
- Video: OU Football: Sooner defense vs Texas
- Video: OU Football: Lincoln Riley talks Texas
- Video: OU Football: Jalen Hurts' first OU-Texas game
- Video: Writer’s Block - Red River Rivalry
- Video: Writer's Block - Greatest Rivalry?
West is a cameraman for Channel 25, the Fox affiliate in Oklahoma City. He mainly shoots news stories, but for the past six years, he’s shot nearly every OU home football game and a few Sooner road games. The Red River Rivalry has become a regular part of that away schedule.
After shooting the first half of the game last year, West went looking for some lunch. He is diabetic, and his blood sugar was low, so he grabbed a boxed lunch from the photographer’s work room.
The room is located about a quarter of the way up storied tunnel, but it was packed with still photographers. West decided to walk up the tunnel and find a place to sit.
“Both sides of the tunnel were packed with media members,” West said. “I had to keep going up farther and farther and farther.”
He finally found a spot near the door to the OU locker room.
West had only been sitting and eating for a few minutes when he started to hear yelling coming from inside the locker room.
“I couldn’t make out who it was,” he said. “I could hear something like, ‘It’s supposed to be my year’ or something like that.”
The yelling went on for 10 or 15 seconds.
Across the tunnel from West were some Texas players not dressed out for the game. With the crowded halftime locker room, they had been relegated to the tunnel.
West happened to catch one player’s gaze.
“We both looked at each other like, ‘Is this really happening?’” West said.
Things went really off the rails a few seconds later when the locker room door opened and a Sooner in full uniform stepped into the tunnel. West saw right away that it was Bolton.
“And he just walks out the back entrance,” West said.
The top of the tunnel empties out into the area where the teams’ buses and equipment trucks are parked. It is cordoned off during the Red River Rivalry.
A couple seconds later, the locker room door opened again. A couple players and a coach — someone later told West it was then-linebacker coach Tim Kish — chased after Bolton.
As West sat there in the tunnel trying to make sense of what he’d just seen, he pulled out his phone and did what many of us do nowadays. He typed up a tweet and hit send.
At 12:40 p.m. on Oct. 6, 2018, @antdwest told the world what he’d just seen.
“Curtis Bolton just walked out of the Cotton Bowl.”
In the hours and days that followed, lots of pundits both professional and amateur would embellish the details. Some said Bolton was out on the midway. Others contended there had been a fight in the locker room.
West doesn’t know about any of that.
He only reported what he witnessed.
“For the next week, people were making fun of it, saying, ‘Oh, he was in the middle of the fair eating corn dogs,’” West said. “I never said anything like that.”
A few days later when Riley was asked about the situation, the coach said it had been overblown.
“Which I agree,” West said.
But for anyone who suggested he was wrong about Bolton leaving the locker room, going up the tunnel and walking out of the Cotton Bowl, West was glad to hear Bolton eventually confirm his account.
“My plan was just to walk back where the trucks were a private area — so I could get some air,” Bolton said a week later. “Emotions were flying from a lot of directions … and to my regret, I walked out (ticked) off.
“It looked bad for anyone standing outside the locker room looking in.”
Thing is, West thought Bolton’s emotions were good. Except for its last drive ended by halftime, Texas scored every time it had the ball in the first half. OU had been trucked by its biggest rival.
Frustration was shared by every Sooner.
West liked Bolton’s fire.
That’s why West hated the brouhaha that bubbled up around Bolton after the game. West didn’t mean for his tweet to cause harm or trouble for anyone.
He hopes this Saturday is a return to normal. Players leaving the locker room at halftime only to return to the field. Tweets just about the game. Drama contained on the field.
Oh, and an uneventful halftime lunch in the tunnel would be nice, too.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or email@example.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.