OU football: Bob Stoops & Longhorn hero Jerrod Heard united in XFL
Jerrod Heard flashed the Hook’ em Horns sign, Bob Stoops reached over in a faux attempt to turn the fingers upside down and the OU-Texas rivalry gave the XFL the kind of photo op needed when launching a fledgling football league.
But that’s all it was. A PR stunt. A good-natured ploy to remind potential fans of storylines in this startup enterprise that otherwise has no history.
Because when the camera isn’t focused and a publicist isn’t directing, Stoops and Heard offer no hint of the bad blood that rises every October in the Cotton Bowl.
Talk about strange bedfellows. The XFL opened this weekend, and Stoops has come out of retirement to coach the Dallas Renegades, who host the St. Louis Battlehawks at 4 p.m. Sunday in Arlington’s Globe Life Park. Stoops’ quarterback is Landry Jones (provided a knee injury doesn’t sideline him Sunday), and one of Jones’ receivers is Heard, the Texas-ex quarterback.
So a quarterback who was 3-0 starting OU-Texas games will be throwing to a quarterback-turned-receiver who was 1-0 starting OU-Texas.
Stoops on Heard: “It’s been awesome. He’s a great guy. A fabulous athlete. He’s an excellent wide receiver. The guy’s so pleasant to be around, I love him. He’s going to have a good year.”
Heard on Stoops: “Same as I expected, just a great coach. I have a great time. He was a great coach. He was really respected.”
No sign of the bristles of October, which infect OU-Texas fans and fullbacks with malice. But in February football, when everyone is literally 0-0, the Red River Rivalry rancor subsides.
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“That rivalry, it’s very hype motivated,” Heard said. “The Red River Rivalry is one of the most legendary bowls you could ever think of in college football. The history behind it is very very important. A lot of heart into that game.”
Heard’s heart is part of the history. Sooner fans should have no trouble recalling Heard, even though he was one of the most innocuous quarterbacks in recent Longhorn history.
Heard made 10 starts for the 2015 Longhorns, the second of Charlie Strong’s three Texas teams. The ‘Horns started 1-4, but Heard quarterbacked UT to a 24-17 upset of the 10th-ranked Sooners. That OU team went on to the College Football Playoff and led Clemson at halftime before losing 37-17 in the Orange Bowl.
It was Heard’s finest hour as a Longhorn. He was a redshirt freshman from Denton Guyer, the quarterback who followed J.W. Walsh at the Texas powerhouse. Against OU, Heard threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Johnson in the first quarter, Texas relied heavily on the run game and the Longhorn defense shut down Baker Mayfield. Heard threw only 11 passes all game, completing eight.
Texas rushed for 313 yards; 115 came from Heard, on 21 carries.
“Oh man, that was exciting,” Heard said. “I remember the final moments, and the clock ran out, and we’re like, ‘we won the game!’
“We attacked the running game really heavy. It brought up everyone to the box, and then we attacked through the air.”
Heard said he hasn’t even brought up the rivalry to Stoops, which is sporting, since the ‘Horns also won in the 2018 regular season. Heard was 2-3 against OU. But he was a quarterback only in that 2015 game. Heard moved to wide receiver in 2016 as Shane Buechele and eventually Sam Ehlinger took over the quarterbacking.
Heard tried out for the NFL, didn’t make a team and is thankful for the XFL and the opportunity to showcase his skills.
“It’s a new thing,” Heard said. “The hype behind it is real good, the highlights the offense can make.”
The XFL offers a variety of rule variances, including extra points that include one-, two- and three-point versions, depending on the yard line from which the ball is snapped. Plus, the double pass. Two forward passes per play are permitted, as long as the first doesn’t go beyond the line of scrimmage.
Seems perfect for a former quarterback playing wide receiver.
“The double pass is going to be really good,” Heard said. “Very beneficial.”
Heard said he fits well with Stoops.
“His style of play is really beneficial to my style,” Heard said. “He spreads the ball out, he tries to get the ball to playmaker’s hands.”
Interesting. Stoops, who made his name coaching defense, is known by this generation of football player for his offensive mind. And to be fair, Stoops always was committed to high-flying offenses. He hired Mike Leach to ignite the OU offense two decades ago, and Stoops hired Leach’s mentor, Hal Mumme, to coordinate this Renegades offense.
Now, Stoops and Heard again share a football field, 21 miles from the Cotton Bowl but far from the hype of OU-Texas.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at oklahoman.com/berrytramel.
XFL opening weekend
Who: St. Louis Battlehawks at Dallas Renegades
When: 4 p.m. Sunday
Where: Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas
TV: ESPN (Cox 29)