Ripkowski earns scholarship in unique way

NORMAN, Okla. — Safe to say OU walk-on fullback Aaron Ripkowski couldn't have envisioned a better way for his teammates and the rest of Sooner Nation to find out he was making the step up to full-ride scholarship.

Head coach Bob Stoops came to him before the season finale at TCU—the Sooners ultimately won that 24-17 and claimed their eighth Big 12 Championship—and informed him the coaching staff would be awarding him a scholarship for his services.

"We were out on a Thursday practicing," Stoops said. "We had talked about it that day. And, you know, we as a staff said, ‘Hey, Rip deserves a scholarship.' You know, he's tough. He's played a lot for us, and I believe a guy has to be a full time starter in our system. That's how we've done it for a lot of years. But he's been it. He's done that for us and special teams, and so I just told him Thursday.

"I said, ‘Why wait?' I grabbed him, put my arm around him, said, ‘Hey, Rip, we're gonna put you on scholarship for the next season, so you've earned it. We appreciate you.'"

But it gets better.

Stoops shocked the 6-foot-1, 260-pound sophomore by naming him the Derrick Shepard Most Inspirational Walk-On Player of the Year and then announcing his earning of a scholarship in front of the entire team at the banquet Dec. 14.

"I didn't know he was going to announce it at the banquet." Ripkowski said. "It was a lot of weight lifted off my shoulders."

His head coach had one unique comment about the award that night, one Ripkowski will probably remember forever.

"I said, ‘Well, he won't be anymore. He won't be able to win it next year, so one of you other guys will have to win it,'" Stoops said.

There's no doubt he's more than bided his time to get on scholarship.

Ripkowski, who has been a huge part of the Belldozer package and its effectiveness, has played in 20 games throughout his career, including all 12 games this year with a start in the Red River Rivalry game against Texas.

He's opened up hole after hole for Blake Bell to allow OU to continue to utilize the special short-yardage formation.

More than that, though, Ripkowski has remained committed to the team and gave it his all each and every single day.

And that's what makes this so rewarding for Stoops.

"Yeah, I love it," Stoops said. "I love it to be able to [do that]. He never asked, but we recognized. Always have here guys that are making a strong contribution and feel they need rewarded for it, you know, when they do. And Rip has a lot of great years in front of him with us, so he'll continue to get better."

He has a pair of seasons left, and the Sooners will greatly need him, especially when Trey Millard leaves after next season or, if he elects to enter the draft early following this year, after 2012.

As for now, Ripkowski can soak in the new feeling of being on scholarship.

He's earned it.

Follow me at twitter.com/joeyhelmer10 or facebook.com/joeyhelmer.

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