By Jason Elmquist
Oklahoma State football has been considered the Oregon of the Midwest since joining forces with Nike in expanding their collection of uniforms.
It’s become a weekly tradition in the fall for Cowboy fans to find out just a few hours before kickoff what color scheme their football team would be wearing.
But this week was a bit different, and for good reason.
Instead of fans looking to the football program’s social media accounts on Saturday morning, they were surprised at the beginning of the week when the Cowboy football Twitter account tweeted out a video Sunday – on a weekend in which the Cowboys did not play a game – showcasing a unique uniform that would be celebrating the military the same week as Veterans Day.
“Nike gave us the choice to be one of the schools to represent Folds of Honor and our military, which certainly is a no-brainer for me,” Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said Monday. “You guys know how I feel about people who are willing to put their life on the line and fight on a daily basis for the freedom in this country. I think it’s pretty cool for us to represent them and show them our support. …
“It’s an honor for us to be able to wear these uniforms, represent the organizations and the people who are willing to do whatever it takes for the greatest country on earth.”
This wasn’t just an idea thrown together this year, either.
According to Justin Williams, OSU’s director of football equipment operations who is on the front line of the team’s uniform combos, Saturday’s tribute to the military has been years in the making.
“We got with Nike a couple years ago talking about ideas for coming up with a unique way to show support for the military,” Williams said earlier this week. “… We worked with the ROTC here to make sure they were cool with it, and it really came about about two years ago. Coach got on board and supported it. It took us a couple of years to get together.”
As Gundy said this week, it was just a no-brainer for him to join forces with Nike in this cause. Gundy’s support of the military is on display every home game in Boone Pickens Stadium.
At each Oklahoma State home game, the athletic department recognizes a military family with a Folds of Honor football jersey out on the field during a timeout in the game. And for the past few years, Gundy has always made it a point to shake hands of the families being recognized during that moment.
And including the logo for Folds of Honor – a foundation created by Stillwater native Lt. Col. Dan Rooney that provides educational scholarships to spouses and children of America’s fallen and disabled service-members – into the uniform was just a natural progression in the uniform’s creation. Not only will the logo be stitched onto the front of the jerseys, but there will also be the same logo as a sticker on the backs of each helmet.
“They’re raising money for military families to go to school, so I thought that was a perfect touch to add to the uniform to kind of complete it,” Williams said.
The Nike jerseys are a base black and gray with a dark camo on the back, underside of the black helmets, as well as on the arm sleeves worn by an players under the jersey. There is very little orange in the scheme – aside from the OSU logo on the helmet and an orange stripe on the pants – but that is by design.
“For this purpose, the gray was a perfect touch,” Williams said. “It’s based off of a F-117 Nighthawk, a stealth plane, so they wanted that stealth, clean look. And that really fit the uniform after it was explained how they went about presenting it.”
Aside from the Folds of Honor logo, the jersey will also include the badge for the Cowboy Battalion – the Oklahoma State’s Army ROTC – on the right shoulder.
“The idea was to bridge the academic side with the athletic side, and I think we’ve hit that right on the head,” Williams said. “… We wanted something to recognize them because we have such a rich history with the ROTC. … They thought we were just going to do a patch, they didn’t know we were going to go full head-to-toe, so they were really excited and they thought it met the goal of making sure its really respectful but still respecting the other military branches and what they do on their football uniforms.”
Also as a sign of respect for the military, the last names of players will not be on the backs of the jerseys. Instead, each player – in a sign of solidarity – will have “Cowboy Battalion” on the name plate.
Several Oklahoma State players admitted to not knowing much about the Folds of Honor Foundation, but that hasn’t deterred their feelings about getting to wear the unique uniforms paying tribute to service members and their families.
“As players, we all loved it,” sophomore safety Kolby Harvell-Peel said. “I know when they put the video on, everybody started going crazy. I don’t know too much about the Folds of Honor, but to be able to represent those guys who are overseas fighting for us daily means a lot.”
According to the release from Oklahoma State about the uniforms, the game-worn jerseys will be auctioned off following the game, with proceeds going to Folds of Honor.