What’s up, Sooner Nation? I’m back at it again to update you on our Countdown to Kickoff! We’re at the halfway point through July, and as of today, there are 48 days remaining until the return of Oklahoma Football! For today’s edition of the countdown series, I’m taking a look back on one of the toughest, most blue-collar players to come through Norman during the Stoops era, and his name is Aaron Ripkowski.
Plain and simple, Aaron Ripkowski, aka ‘Rip,’ was a tone-setter. In high school, the Dayton, TX native was a state power-lifting champion. In fact, his 450 pound bench press mark was record-breaking for the 242 pound weight class. Rip then took his talents north of the border, coming to OU as a walk-on. From 2011-2014, rarely was he the guy toting the rock or leaking out in space for an easy pitch-and-catch. No, on most plays, Rip was the guy punishing whoever he could get his hands on, allowing others to shine in the end zone.
But every now and then, Ripkowski’s number would be called. In his final two seasons, Rip recorded three rushing TDs and two receiving scores on only 14 touches. His teammates were well aware of the amount of work he put in to earn each and every one of those moments, and the payoff was absolutely inspiring to watch.
Ripkowski never complained about his role, because he relished in it. With his ability, who wouldn’t want to just knock defenders on their butts over and over again? For four years, Rip was as gritty and hard-working as they come, and by his senior season, Rip was the recipient of Oklahoma Football’s Don Key Award, one of the highest honors the coaches can bestow on a player.
The story doesn’t end there, because after hanging up his shoulder pads for the final time with the Oklahoma Sooners, Aaron Ripkowski saw his football career continue when the Green Bay Packers selected Rip in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Go Rip Go!!— Oklahoma Football (@OU_Football) May 2, 2015
Green Bay picked a good one in Aaron Ripkowski! #Sooners pic.twitter.com/VtNO6GYVXw
Today, while Ripkowski has changed numbers (from 48 to 22), one thing has remained the same. Rip is still a nose-to-the-grindstone, does-the-dirty-work kind of player, and that fits perfectly with the people of Green Bay as well as the Packers’ franchise. Check out his first touchdown as a pro, which came against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football.
.@AaronRipkowski got his first NFL touchdown on Monday Night Football! #GBvsPHI #GoPackGo https://t.co/6vZcZGSvHK— Green Bay Packers (@packers) November 29, 2016
The fullback is a dying breed in today’s wide-open, athletes-in-space college football, and the case isn’t much different at the next level. While Oklahoma has been at the forefront of the evolution of the spread offense, the Sooners have maintained the value of incorporating a fullback in the mix. For Aaron Ripkowski, though he wasn’t utilized as an offensive weapon like a Trey Millard or Dimitri Flowers, the value he brought to the team was incalculable.
Now let’s cover the days we missed since our last countdown post:
49 days! - The 1949 Oklahoma Sooners
One season before Bud Wilkinson won his first national championship at Oklahoma, the Sooners fielded a dominating squad that walloped its opponents by a combined score of 399-88 en route to a pristine 11-0 record. It was the first time Oklahoma had gone unbeaten since 1920.
What’s extra special about the ‘49 Sooners is that they were the last OU team to have a bunch of WW2 veterans on the roster. It’s unfortunate that Oklahoma wasn’t awarded the natty that season (Notre Dame won that year), but as consolation, Oklahoma throttled the LSU Tigers in the Sugar Bowl 35-0. Additionally, seasons such as the 1949 campaign eventually gave Oklahoma enough cachet to be awarded national titles.
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