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January 3, 2013

Sooners’ polarizing QB has plenty of respect within locker room

IRVING, Texas — There isn’t a person on earth with a better understanding of the thrills and chills of being Oklahoma’s quarterback than Landry Jones.

The fifth-year senior will make his 50th career start when the 12th-ranked Sooners face 10th-ranked Texas A&M in the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic at Cowboys Stadium. In an ironic twist, his college career will end where it began on Sept. 5, 2009. Jones’ wife, Whitney Hand, reminded him of that when the Sooners received the Cotton Bowl invite earlier this month.

“She said how interesting it was to see how I’ve come full circle here,” Jones said.

The circle is wider than most. Seasons as the Sooners’ quarterback can fly by in days or stretch on like decades, depending on the outcomes. Jones’ career has been like a roller coaster no engineer could possibly sign off on. The peaks have been high and the valleys have been low.

The peaks are easy to remember. Jones went 3-0 as the starter against Texas. With a victory Friday night, he’ll finish his career a perfect 3-0 in bowl games. This season, OU won its second Big 12 championship with him under center. Every completion on Friday will extend Jones’ records as the Big 12’s all-time passing leader.

Yet, Jones has never achieved the level of esteem among OU fans that Sam Bradford (2007-09), Jason White (2001-04) or Josh Heupel achieved (1999-2000). Jones never won the Heisman Trophy like Bradford in 2008 or White in 2003. The Sooners never reached the national championship game like Bradford (2008) or White (2003 and 2004). They certainly didn’t win one like Heupel did in 2000.

It’s far from a secret that Jones turned down a first-round grade a year ago to return for his senior season. The main reason was to do some of the things Bradford, White and Heupel did.

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