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OU football: Tanner Mordecai's competitiveness helps him fight through QB battle

NORMAN — It was just a practice, but the intensity never waned.

When the coaches called for an overtime period, featuring starters on both sides, toward the end of the week — a week in which the defense dominated overall — the quarterback didn’t hesitate.

He pulled the offense off to the side and delivered an impassioned plea to his group to win the day — to win the drill.

Then he did just that.

“He fought and dug and just was not going to let those guys beat him that day,” offensive coordinator Brad Boyd said.

Standing about five yards behind the quarterback with Boyd, watching as Boyd both got his teammates fired up for an otherwise routine practice drill and willed his side to victory, Lincoln Riley leaned over.

“This reminds me so much of 6,” Riley said.

That 6, of course, was Riley’s quarterback at the time — Baker Mayfield, who went on to win the Heisman Trophy and become the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.

The quarterback Riley was watching that day in Waco, Texas, was Tanner Mordecai, who was starring at Waco Midway.

Now, Mordecai is in Norman, playing for Riley, and battling Jalen Hurts to be the starting quarterback for the Sooners in the fall.

Hurts is the clear favorite for the job but those who have spent plenty of time around Mordecai say they aren’t counting him out.

That includes his father, Micah Mordecai.

“He’s pretty excited about it,” Micah said. “He wants to lead the team.”

Micah Mordecai, the son of a tennis pro, put his son into as many sports as he could.

Football. Basketball. Baseball, Track. Soccer.

Micah thought the footwork he’d learn in soccer would translate to all the other sports he played.

But Mordecai’s soccer career was a short one.

He craved the physicality of football.

“He would go take the ball from kids when he was playing,” Micah said. “When you bump somebody, you get a yellow card and he was getting a lot of yellow cards.

“He really didn’t like soccer very much because they wouldn’t let you bump into each other and he wasn’t going to let anybody have the ball but him.”

Mordecai’s intense competitiveness is a constant theme.

He showed it on the soccer field back when he was 11, he showed it on that practice field with Riley watching, and he showed it in his final high school game — the Texas Class 6A Division II state title game.

Late in the third quarter, the game was all but over with Mordecai’s Panthers down 44-7.

Mordecai gathered his team just like he’d done in that practice months before.

“I don’t care what the final score winds up being,” Mordecai said “Don’t you ever quit. We’re going to fight until the final whistle.”

Mordecai helped lead a comeback that fell short, 51-35, but still showed Mordecai’s resilience.

“I’ve coached a lot of good players,” Boyd, who was at Colleyville (Texas) Heritage when Cody Thomas quarterbacked there, said. “But that’s the one thing that separates him from everyone else is the way he’s competing all the time.”

OU SPRING GAME

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Gaylord Family—Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman

Tickets: $8 for season-ticket holders, $10 for non-season ticket holders

Related Photos
<strong>Quarterback Tanner Mordecai (15) throws the ball during spring practice at the University of Oklahoma. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]</strong>

Quarterback Tanner Mordecai (15) throws the ball during spring practice at the University of Oklahoma. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-63a7beb36e9798cda42535a1402340a9.jpg" alt="Photo - Quarterback Tanner Mordecai (15) throws the ball during spring practice at the University of Oklahoma. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] " title=" Quarterback Tanner Mordecai (15) throws the ball during spring practice at the University of Oklahoma. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Quarterback Tanner Mordecai (15) throws the ball during spring practice at the University of Oklahoma. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Ryan Aber

Ryan Aber has worked for The Oklahoman since 2006, covering high schools, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Oklahoma City Barons and OU football recruiting. An Oklahoma City native, Aber graduated from Northeastern State. Before joining The... Read more ›

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