Growing up orange: OSU defensive end Cooper Bassett brings a personal fight to Bedlam
BY KELLY HINES World Sports Writer
Thursday, November 22, 2012
11/22/12 at 5:55 AM
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STILLWATER - When playing in his backyard as a kid, Cooper Bassett imagined scoring the winning touchdown in Bedlam as time expired.
Other boys in Tuttle likely dreamed they were local hero Jason White, who won a Heisman at Oklahoma.
Bassett, on the other hand, pretended he was Oklahoma State tight end Billy Bajema.
"I went to church with Billy as a kid when he was in high school (at Westmoore)," Bassett said. "I was a tight end as a little kid and he was a tight end here.
"He was just my hero. Anything he did was just awesome."
When Bassett reached high school, he requested a No. 86 jersey because of Bajema. It was unavailable, so he settled for the closest number.
Now a senior defensive end at OSU, he sees kids from Tuttle wearing custom-made No. 80 Cooper Bassett jerseys.
"It's the most flattering, most awesome thing I could never ask for," he said. "It's just a blessing from God and I appreciate every minute of it."
Bassett was not only a Bajema fan as a kid but a Cowboy diehard. He grew up in orange for one reason: His dad, John, has always rooted for the underdog.
When he moved from California to central Oklahoma in the early '80s, John Bassett was introduced to Big Eight football but didn't care for Barry Switzer or his Sooners.
"After moving here, I realized you have to pick one school or the other," John Bassett said. "I've always been a fan of the underdog, so I sort of gravitated toward OSU."
So John Bassett adopted the Cowboys as his team, and when sons Cooper and Dawson came along, they inherited that allegiance.
With Tuttle being 20 minutes from Norman, even before the White connection, most of Bassett's friends were OU fans. Nearly every year of his childhood, Bedlam resulted in an OSU loss.
"I remember as a little kid the years that we weren't good," he said. "We were getting beat up on by a lot of people, and I'll never forget when we beat OU in 2001.
"That was kind of the startup of OSU going to bowl games and winning games."
After the 2001 win, Bassett showed up at school the following Monday decked out in orange apparel. The next year, too.
"It's bragging rights for 364 days until the next game," he said. "That's what the biggest thing about it is."
An all-state defensive end at Tuttle, Bassett put aside his OSU fandom and verbally committed to Kansas State for eight months before switching to the Cowboys.
Now, he's the poster child of the program, among the most popular players within the team, and the one coach Mike Gundy recently said would make the best politician.
On Saturday, Bassett will play in his final Bedlam, a game where he's made some of the best memories of his career. His first start, as a freshman tight end, came against OU in 2009.
And of course, there was last year's 44-10 victory that snapped an eight-game losing streak in the series and gave the Cowboys the conference title.
"To get the win last year was so great, and more importantly than beating them to win the Big 12 championship was so awesome," Bassett said. "For the fans that stuck by us ... their dedication and love for OSU finally paid off and they had something to be proud about for a year.
"It was great to be a part of that and give that back to fans."
A win this week would be another memory as Bassett's college career winds down. He might not score the winning touchdown, but regardless of what happens, being a Cowboy has been a dream come true.
"Growing up as a kid, if I had one wish, it would be to play here," he said. "And not only have I gotten a chance to be here, I have played here, I have contributed, I have got such a loyal fan base and so much fun from all the fans that so many people in this world don't get to experience.
"I have been so blessed and lucky and fortunate, and I can't thank people enough and thank God enough for the experiences I have gotten.
BEDLAM FOOTBALL: OSU (7-3, 5-2) AT OU (8-2, 6-1)
2:30 p.m. Saturday • Owen Field, Norman • TV: ESPN-25 • Radio: KMOD fm97.5, KTBZ am1430, KFAQ am1170
Original Print Headline: Growing up orange
Kelly Hines 918-581-8452
Cooper Bassett grew up in Tuttle as a fan of Billy Bajema and the Cowboys. KT KING/For the Tulsa World
As a child, he inherited his father's preference for the underdog. Courtesy
Oklahoma State's Cooper Bassett (right) celebrates with Tyler Johnson after a big play against Iowa State last month in Stillwater. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World