Stoops twins seek own paths at OU

Kyle Phillips/The Norman TranscriptIsaac Stoops, left, and Drake Stoops wait to participate in a signing ceremony at Norman North High School on Wednesday. The Stoops twins, sons of former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, will be preferred walk-ons at OU.

As twins, Isaac and Drake Stoops look the part.

Same fair skin and blue-ish gray eyes. Same swooping, sandy blonde hair.

“We’re friends. We’re close,” Isaac said. “Growing up, we did everything together.”

Like fight, sometimes.

“Oh yeah, way too much,” Isaac said. “We both had stitches over our head, on our eyes, our chin. I broke my nose twice. We used to fight it out all the time.”

Drake kept a tally of stitches, which included a set of 13 across the left cleft of his chin, a battle wound he still wears today.

They’ve shared scars and gym socks. They shared a football team in high school at Norman North and will share another one in college.

And, of course, they share a famous last name.

Side by side on Wednesday in the North Gym, Isaac and Drake celebrated their choice to become preferred walk-ons next season at Oklahoma, the football program their dad Bob spent 18 seasons rebuilding into a powerhouse.

It wasn’t beneath the Stoopses to get into the spirit of National Signing Day. Bob, his wife Carol and daughter Mackenzie were wrapped up in the festivities like any family. They arrived carrying an OU gym bag packed with two Sooner helmets and a crimson paper tablecloth, which Bob happily helped stretch over one of the boys’ tables.

They posed for pictures, then relaxed. Then they regrouped for more. And more.

They would’ve celebrated even if Isaac and Drake, both inside receivers, had chosen different paths.

Which they almost did.

Drake spurned scholarship offers from Iowa — his dad’s alma mater — plus Memphis, Ohio, Western Kentucky, Air Force and others after catching 67 passes for 1,093 yards and 15 touchdowns his senior season.

Isaac turned down a scholarship offer from Army and preferred walk-on opportunities at Arkansas and Nevada. As a senior, he moved from cornerback to receiver and caught 45 passes for 914 yards and 11 touchdowns.

“That realization of us maybe taking separate paths, I think that became a real thing for us. So we started to do our own thing and look at our own different schools,” Drake said.

Said Isaac: “We decided early on we weren’t for [playing with each other] or against it. We weren’t gonna let it factor into our decision either way.”

But everything kept circling back to OU. Isaac committed in late January, 15 days after Drake.

Together they’re challenged with earning scholarships under Sooner coach Lincoln Riley, who was essentially Bob Stoops’ hand-picked successor when Stoops retired last June with a program-high 190 victories to his name.

“They’re gonna outwork anybody. That starts to chip away, and guys start to see these guys mean business,” North coach Brent Barnes said. “And people will see real quickly, they’re really talented.”

OU’s walk-on offer wasn’t the obligation of a program that still owes much to Bob Stoops, who’s still with the university as special assistant to the athletic director.

Riley says identifying quality walk-ons is a staff emphasis during recruiting. Former Sooner quarterback Baker Mayfield rose rapidly from his walk-on days, and OU starting center Erick Wren had to enroll first before earning a scholarship, too.

In accordance with NCAA rules, coaches can’t publicly comment on walk-ons until they arrive.

“I think we’ve got a really strong class of guys coming in that could’ve played football at a lot of places,” Riley said. “These are all guys that are going to have a chance to impact our program in a lot of different areas in the future.”

Their pasts forever entwined, the Stoops boys share a future, too, at least for a little while. They still want to write unique football stories all their own, apart somehow from even their dad’s legacy.

“I think if I continue to work hard and let my play speak for itself, everyone will know me as Drake Stoops, as well as Bob Stoops’ son,” Drake said.

College tends to create individuals out of even the most conforming types, and the twins still have their differences. Drake is an inch taller and eight pounds heavier. Isaac might be the more laid-back of the two.

Neither’s ever been afraid of a fight.

“I might be the troublemaker, honestly,” Drake said. “But he’s the one that before games, I’ll forget socks or I’ll forget an undershirt and he will have packed extra, and he’s done that since seventh grade just because I’m like that.

“He always has my back.”

Jeff Cali has been covering sports in the Ada area since the mid-90s. He graduated from Byng High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from East Central University.