NORMAN — Some venues have auras created by decades of history. Fenway Park, Madison Square Garden and Lambeau Field are ingrained in the sports lexicon because of the great teams and great games played throughout the years. Generations of fans have passed through the gates and sat in the seats.
Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the site of the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic, isn’t even five years old. It’s become one of sports’ bucket-list stadiums anyway.
“I’m from Texas,” OU defensive end R.J. Washington said. “Everyone from Texas wants to play in Cowboy Stadium.”
The Sooners have 47 players on their roster from Texas. Most of them grew up watching Dallas Cowboys games. Even those who didn’t are familiar with it.
The 80,000-seat, $1.15 billion stadium has been the home of the Cowboys for the last four seasons, hosted Super Bowl XLV and will also host the NCAA basketball Final Four in 2014.
But it’s all the bells and whistles the stadium houses that draws players’ attention. The video board in the middle of the stadium is one of the largest high-definition video boards in the world.
For college teams used to playing in stadiums with concrete that was poured before World War II, playing in something that is state of the art in every sense is a thrill.
Playing in one of NFL’s most recognizable stadium doesn’t hurt either.
“It’s got an NFL feel,” OU defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland said. “You really feel like you’re on the big stage when you go and you’ve got Gatorade things all in your locker room, and stuff like that.”
The Sooners are very familiar with it. For the senior class, the Jan. 4 meeting with Texas A&M means their careers will come full circle. Many wore the Sooner uniform for the first time when OU faced BYU there on Sept. 5, 2009.
The group won its first Big 12 championship when OU beat Nebraska, 23-20, on Dec. 4, 2010.
“There’s little things you remember about those games, but just the feeling of playing in Cowboys Stadium,” OU quarterback Landry Jones said. “It’s a great atmosphere. And then just winning the Big 12 there ... It was a fun game.”
The Aggies are no strangers to Cowboys Stadium either. They faced Arkansas there from 2009-11. They also wrapped up the 2010 season by playing LSU in the Cotton Bowl.
Everyone involved is heading to a familiar place and is happy to be doing it.
“Going back home. Especially this game, I’ve got friends that go to A&M; that was the closest big university to my hometown. It’s fun all the way around,” McFarland said.” You’ve got guys that are rooting for them, stuff like that. It’s a big competition, but being in JerryWorld (Cowboys Stadium) is just amazing. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the visitors’ locker room or the cheerleading locker room. Everything’s nice and it’s all brand new.”
John ShinnFollow me @firstname.lastname@example.org