Oklahoma linebacker Caleb Gastelum, a walk-on senior, was already having the best day of his career at Tulsa, shirking his normal role as a special-teamer to make eight tackles, record a sack and intercept a pass in a 52-7 win. But what happened during the game did not compare with what happened after it.
According to the Sooners’ official Twitter account, head coach Bob Stoops awarded Gastelum with both a game ball and, more importantly, a scholarship after the team’s dominant win:
Gastelum entered the year with just five career tackles, both coming in 2013. His three tackles against Louisiana Tech last week tied his single-game career high, but that number was doubled and almost tripled during his extended action Saturday. Here’s a look at his interception, which, admittedly, came in the final minute of the contest, when the outcome was well beyond dispute. But that didn’t appear to dampen the experience one bit:
Gastelum had never intercepted a pass before that one. The sack he recorded against Tulsa was also the first of his career. It’s a heartwarming story to see this happen for Gastelum—even as late as his senior year—because he didn’t even play real high school football. He was home-schooled as a teenager and played in the North Oklahoma Association of Homeschools, per Eric Bailey of Tulsa World. “Do what your heart desires,” he said in August, a message to all home-schooled football players. “If you have the desire to play at a big level, believe in that and strive to make the steps to get there.” Unless Oklahoma’s linebacker depth gets ravaged at some point this season, it’s unlikely Gastelum will ever see the field enough on defense to repeat Saturday’s stat line. But he will remain a key special teams player on a team with national title aspirations, and starting this weekend, he will do so as a scholarship athlete. And that is pretty darn cool.