NORMAN — For the last four years Kierstan Pendleton had been quiet at Norman High. The senior defensive back was considered undersized and never earned a prominent role for the Tigers. He stayed in the background, enjoying being part of the team and adhering to his simple, two-part philosophy on football: Be phenomenal, and have fun.
Through two games this season, he’s done both.
Twice this season the Tigers have started out slow, and fallen behind early. And twice, Pendleton has come to their rescue.
The younger brother of former Oklahoma player Carl Pendleton, Kierstan has become the spark that keeps the Tigers going. Or, more accurately, the one that gets them going in the first place.
In the season opener against Norman North, the Tigers fell behind 7-0 early. That is, until Pendleton intercepted a David Cornwell pass and returned it for a touchdown that ignited a NHS comeback. And last week, the Tigers went down 10-0 to Moore and were clearly on their heels. That is, until Pendleton returned a punt for a score to regain the momentum and put the Tigers in control.
“He’s been the spark we’ve needed,” coach Greg Nation said. “What’s he’s done for us so far this year has been huge.”
Nation is understandably proud of the way Pendleton has developed, because it serves as a validation of the program the sixth-year coach has built at NHS. Pendleton didn’t arrive at NHS as a freshman phenom, nor did he draw attention the way some other flashy young athletes have. Instead, he diligently worked hard and proudly did his part in what he called the “family” at NHS.
“I couldn’t have gotten where I am without my friends, my family and my coaches here,” he said. “It’s a big help to have everyone behind you. We have team dinners to help the team bond. It helps you to stay with the game even if you’re not out there.”