Catching Up with Kye Staley – Oklahoma State University Athletics
STILLWATER – When Kye Staley took the field as part of the halftime celebration honoring the 2011 Cowboy football team during Oklahoma State’s home game against Baylor on Oct. 2, the memories flooded back to him. Stories, moments and his reason.
“Looking back, it is amazing that it’s been 10 years since that season,” Staley said. “I’m very grateful to be part of OSU history. That’s the main reason when people ask me why I wanted to go to Oklahoma State, it’s because I wanted to be a part of something that had never been done before. To speak that into existence before I ever arrived on campus and then be able to do that with a bunch of not-highly-recruited guys who came together to accomplish something that had never happened there was an unforgettable experience and something I’ll talk about for 20 or 30 years on.”
The 2011 team provided Oklahoma State with perhaps the most memorable season in program history that included a 12-1 record, a Big 12 championship, Fiesta Bowl victory and a No. 3 ranking in the final poll, which is the highest an OSU team has ever finished.
“It was special being back and having OSU get the win was a great feeling as well,” Staley said. “I haven’t seen some of those guys in eight to 10 years. The stories we have together and conversing and talking about them and catching up on life was fun. It seems like everybody from that year who was there and who I saw is doing really well and that’s always what you want – to come back and reminisce on the success you had on the field back then and the successes that you continue to have in life.”
While the norm for Mike Gundy and the OSU football program has been taking underrecruited players and developing them on campus, Staley did not fit that description. A standout running back at Guthrie HS, he was the Oklahoma High School Player of the Year, the top-ranked prospect in the state and the No. 6-ranked athlete in the nation, according to SuperPrep.
His career took an unexpected turn in fall camp of his redshirt freshman year when a knee injury threatened not only his chances of playing again, but also his chances to walk. Two years removed from the injury, Staley returned to the field, although at a different position. Playing fullback for the Cowboys, Staley was mainly used as a lead blocker in a rushing attack that was a solid complement to the potent aerial attack led by Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon.
Although the ball seldom came his way in his new role, he was a major factor in OSU’s success. Outside of his work on the field, he was the heart and soul of the team and an emotional leader who had the respect of everyone in the locker room.
“Everyone that had been there with me since I went to college knew all the struggles I went through with my knee injury and then outside stuff off the field and away from football,” Staley said. “For me, it was more of a motivational thing where I’d wake up every morning and I was always in a good mood. I was sore, I was tired, but I was grateful to be back and that kind of pushed everyone to think ‘Kye has been through everything with his knee injury and mentally and if he can continue to come in with a smile on his face and continue to work hard and accept the role that he didn’t come in here to have,’ I feel like that earned a lot of respect and in that sense I was a motivational and emotional leader.”
Yet on Oct. 29 of 2011 in a game against Baylor, on an 18-yard pass from Weeden, Staley got his own chance to celebrate the adversity he had overcome.
“Going through all that I went through from coming out of high school being highly recruited and highly touted to having the injury the way I did, it took two years not just physically, but mentally to come back,” Staley said. “To cross that end zone for the first time in front of our home fans was clarification that no matter what path you go on, if you continue to work hard and have a positive mindset you can overcome any obstacle in your way.”
Since his playing days concluded, Staley has continued to do what he did on the field in his work life: helping others. He spent time coaching high school football before moving into insurance and is now a personal trainer at a country club in Oklahoma City. He also hosts a podcast “Athletes with Appetites” where he travels to diners to promote their businesses while talking with athletes who have had similar experiences as Staley in their careers.
The 2011 reunion was a cherished time for Staley and he hopes to be able to return to OSU for similar events in the future.
For now, Staley will continue to be a motivator and inspiration to individuals he deals with in training and through other ventures, just like he was during his playing days.
“I really enjoyed going back up to Stillwater. It was great to see a lot of familiar faces,” Staley said. “I saw the guy that did my rehab and was able to hug him. To this day he uses one of my injuries as an example that you can come back from anything. It’s about being an inspiration not just for people that you see, but for the people you can’t tell are watching as well,”
“I’m always going to be proud that I went to Oklahoma State and would never change my decision for anything. Always loyal and true.”
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