Oct. 16—The University of Texas couldn't sway Tyler Lacy's decision.
As a young defensive lineman in his hometown of Sachse, Texas, Lacy hoped to someday play for the Longhorns. His dad, Marvin, had always been a fan of former Texas running back Earl Campbell, and the family continued to closely follow the football program when Lacy's cousin, Aaron Ross, played cornerback there.
But when the Longhorns suddenly ramped up their efforts of recruiting Lacy soon before National Signing Day, his former dream school couldn't make him think twice. Oklahoma State had already won him over, and there was no changing his mind.
"I was fully going, all the way, so give me the papers, let me sign them, it's a done deal," Lacy said.
He signed with the Cowboys in 2017, and nearly four years later, Lacy has grown into a role as a consistent, energetic presence on OSU's defensive line. Lacy, a redshirt junior defensive end, has started in every game since the beginning of last season.
Now, he is preparing to compete against the team he once supported. Lacy and the No. 12 Cowboys will strive to preserve their undefeated record when they take on No. 25 Texas at 11 a.m. Saturday at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
The game-day environment in Austin feeds Lacy's competitiveness. He doesn't mind when the fans in burnt orange are rooting against him. Instead, he embraces the opportunity to clash with the Longhorns, and he isn't alone.
OSU's roster always includes a sizable number of student-athletes from Texas, and the Longhorns overlooked many of them during their recruiting journeys. Standing at the podium during his weekly press conference, coach Mike Gundy couldn't think of anyone on his team who had received an offer from Texas. Someone mentioned running back Dominic Richardson — the Longhorns did offer him in spring 2019 — but he has to be one of only a few.
The Cowboys are ready to prove themselves against a program that might have previously dismissed their talent.
"I think that definitely gives us a chip on our shoulder," Lacy said. "I told the guys, 'Take this game personal.' ... Every game that's coming up is a personal game, but I feel like this is more of a personal game for me."
For Lacy, the Longhorns were involved with his recruitment — he said he communicated with coaches throughout the process — but Texas didn't make much of a move until it was too late.
His experience with the Cowboys was different.
Lacy was leaning toward Texas Tech after a visit there, but about an hour after leaving Lubbock, a call from Cowboy defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements changed everything. Clements invited Lacy to visit OSU the following weekend, and he agreed.
Veronica and Marvin Lacy saw how the OSU community quickly connected with their son. Clements led Lacy on a tour, and Lacy bonded with people at the academic center.
When the family visited Stillwater for a spring game, a Cowboys fan recognized Lacy and stopped him to offer encouragement, pledging to root for Lacy even if he chose a school other than OSU — unless he went to OU, of course.
Veronica never forgets that serendipitous encounter. She was in a town where strangers were supporting her son. OSU appealed to the family so much that Lacy's sister, Azia, chose to go there as well.
"OSU really felt like home to him from the moment that he stepped on campus," Veronica said. "Texas came at the 12th hour before signing his letter of intent, but he just felt like it was in his best interest to go to OSU since (the Longhorns) came in so late."
The Cowboys' dedication to recruiting Lacy has paid off. He and linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez lead OSU in tackles for loss with five each, and Lacy's five quarterback hurries rank third on the team. He has also recorded 13 total tackles, 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble.
As the Cowboy defense has dealt with changes up front because of injuries at the edge rusher position, Lacy has provided steadiness at defensive end.
"He's always trying to get the ball and always running after the ball," linebacker Devin Harper said. "Screens, he's always running there. Loose balls, he's there every time. He's just a natural for the ball, to be honest."
Lacy's impact on the Cowboys extends beyond his abilities to create disruptive plays. When his teammates are doing the same, he is one of the first to celebrate their achievements, turning to the stands to pump the fans up. Lacy said his favorite play this season has been defensive tackle Brendon Evers' pass breakup against Baylor, the end of a sequence that started with Lacy chasing quarterback Gerry Bohanon out of the pocket.
The defense shares familylike connections, and Marvin has noticed how this boosts the Cowboys on the field.
"I think it's exciting to see the defense strong and talented in every position," Marvin said. "...It's very special, and it's exciting to see that many players get to the ball and have that kind of fun. I think they're having fun, and I think that's the best thing that we see out of this whole maturation of them becoming one of the best defenses in the Big 12."
Lacy personifies this enjoyment of the game. A smile spreads across his face when he talks about playing football, and the motto for his apparel — which Veronica designs — is "OLE," meaning "Optimize Life Experiences."
It's not the place where he once imagined himself building a college career, but Lacy has embraced OSU. And the Cowboys have embraced him, too.
"Growing up as a kid, I always wanted to play in the burnt orange, but it didn't go that way," Lacy said. "Now, I'm in a different color orange, and I'm glad to be here."