NORMAN — The roar of a crowd of more than 80,000 people all dressed in either crimson or cream, is evenly divided with one side yelling “Boomer,” while the other bellows “Sooner.”
You can’t just be anyone to play on this turf, this is where legends are carved and celebrities are born. Everyone understands that “there is only one Oklahoma.” All are here to witness the spectacle that takes place on the football field, where the eyes of the nation can be upon them.
Jimbo Elrod, who at the University of Oklahoma was an All-American linebacker and a part of a team that earned two national championships in 1974 and 1975, is no stranger to the sights and sounds of game day at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
However, as he is now retired from football, a new Elrod carries on his legacy on the field, except it isn’t football. His daughter Chanel, a sophomore and OU cheerleader, starts a tradition of Elrods serving athletics on the game day field.
Chanel has come a long way with cheerleading since her parents coaxed her to try it even though she thought it was “too girly.” The crowds that the University of Oklahoma draws are unmatched, but Chanel has never cheered for any small audiences.
She first performed cheer at a Tulsa Talons game, which is a local professional football team, and then throughout school with Jenks High School. The sport has grown on her as she plans to spend the rest of her life coaching it ideally at Jenks High School. Performing on OU’s football field is a memory that Chanel and her dad will share in common. There are not many in the world who can share that same memory, let alone a father and daughter.
“Every time the bell rings for the intro video, I just get chills of excitement and I’m ready to go,” says Chanel about being on the field before a game, as her father agrees.
Growing up with a father who played football at the University of Oklahoma but also in the NFL for five seasons can’t be normal. But Chanel Elrod insists that it was nothing out of the ordinary, “except when we went to restaurants, then everyone noticed him.”
Justin Wilson, now a sophomore who went to high school with Chanel, says that he will always remember visiting the lake with the Elrod family and how people still recognized Jimbo after all these years.
Jimbo stays involved in the OU program. He commutes from Tulsa and says that excitement hits him when he’s about five miles out of Norman. He is a part of the alumni association and contributes on the radio station KREF every Friday at noon. For Jimbo, a part of him has always stayed at OU and it is very nostalgic to see his daughter cheering for what once was his football team. He always envisioned his daughter taking cheer to the collegiate level, even when she did not.
“The first time I saw her out there, I started crying,” says Jimbo. A home field that meant so much to him in college continues to touch him long after he has retired.
For both Elrods, the OU/Texas rivalry is a coveted experience. The surreal sensations of the Cotton Bowl stadium are unbelievable, the floods of crimson and burnt orange and they both agree it is a rivalry that is unmatched.
“Not all people get to experience that,” says Jimbo about playing in a game of that caliber. The most frequently talked-about-play from Jimbo Elrod’s career happened during the 1974 OU/Texas game where Jimbo caused Texas’s star running back Earl Campbell to fumble the ball and set up OU’s game winning field goal.
“That play sticks out because it was against Earl Campbell,” says Jimbo. The renowned rivalry between OU and Texas has earned Jimbo’s respect as he says if Chanel were to attend the University of Texas he would never personally cheer for them but for his daughter. However, not all opposing schools are acceptable for Chanel to pursue a cheerleading career.
“If she wanted to go to OSU, I would forbid it,” he said.