OWASSO, Okla. — If it had been what he wanted, everywhere Josh Proctor looked could have given him a sign that he should stay home.
There was an Oklahoma football jersey hanging in the office of his defensive coordinator at Owasso High School from Bobby Klinck’s playing days.
If he went upstairs to the second-floor office of his basketball coach, Proctor could hear all about the value of heading to Oklahoma State, where Brian Montonati used to suit up — after growing up as a Michigan fan, no less.
At family gatherings, Proctor had an uncle in Patrick Collins who contributed to some of the glory days for the Sooners in the 1980s.
Shoot, just a couple of long interception returns from the Owasso campus is a Billy Sims barbecue joint. Oklahoma memorabilia covers seemingly every inch of the restaurant’s walls while visitors scarf down tasty meals that pay tribute to his decorated career by ordering the Heisman — a three-meat sandwich that should never be stiff-armed at the table.
That’s not to mention the fact that Proctor naturally grew up cheering for the Sooners, or that seemingly every day his classmates would bug him about heading to Norman instead of Columbus.
“Yeah, there was a lot of that,” Proctor said with a smile. “I could never just walk around the halls and not hear that I had to go to OU or when I was going to switch. It didn’t put a lot of pressure on me. I just had fun with everything.
“I didn’t take it too serious.”
The huge decision, of course, was always approached seriously by Proctor, who by now has recounted what drew him to Ohio State numerous times. He is the first Oklahoma native believed ever to have signed with the program.
The real question isn’t how exactly he got away from all those folks back home. It’s how so many were able to put aside all those ties and rooting interests to make sure Proctor was able to make the choice that he wanted to make.
“He’s such a great kid, you just want what’s best for him,” Klinck said. “You just kind of look at it like, if he wanted to approach me about it, I would give my opinion. But he knew what he wanted to do and built a relationship there. I’m sure he’s smart enough to look at the depth chart, what his goals are and all that. You just want what’s best for the kids. All that kid is going to do is excel.
“I see that guy as an NFL-caliber guy, and I’ll probably never get to coach somebody that talented again. I just wanted what was best for him.”
That didn’t mean, though, that Klinck wouldn’t occasionally poke a little fun at the Owasso star as the recruitment started drawing more and more interest.
On one cold day, Klinck remembered seeing Proctor is a borrowed sweatshirt that didn’t have an Ohio State logo on it. So, Klinck joked about posting a picture with Proctor wearing another school’s gear just to see what kind of reaction it would produce.
“He would just laugh,” Klinck said. “He was all about Ohio State. I think that’s kind of rare in this day of age.”
That mindset started to become clear even before Proctor committed last year after the Ohio State spring game, especially to Montonati.
As Montonati gave him a ride home one day during the process, Jim Harbaugh dialed up Proctor for a recruiting call — an extra-exciting event for a coach who still has some rooting interests back in Michigan. At least until Proctor hung up and told Montonati which side of the rivalry he would be on in college.
‘We were talking after the call, just talking about schools and things like that, and I asked him if he had to pick a school right now, what would it be?” Montonati said. “He told me it was Ohio State. I asked him why, because it is a long way from home and you’ve got OU right down the road as a national power. I just wanted to try to pick his mindset.
“The one thing that stood out was he just said the atmosphere is completely different and he felt like he could go to the next level by playing there. You want to go where you’re comfortable and with who you trust and things like that. I thought at that time he had his mind made up of where he wanted to go.”
Like Klinck or the Proctor family, Montonati certainly wasn’t going to try to stand in his way.
Proctor got pretty good at tuning out those signs anyway, forging his own path away from Oklahoma by keeping his focus on the Buckeyes.