Greetings, Sooner Nation! We now sit just two weekends away from the start of the 2019 season of Oklahoma Sooners football. With that in mind, today’s Countdown to Kickoff is a tribute to one of the most captivating special teams talents in college football history in Sooners defensive back, No. 15, J.T. Thatcher.
The Norman native played all over the field in his four years at Oklahoma, including on offense his first two seasons, but truly made his mark after switching to free safety upon Bob Stoops’ arrival in 1999. Never the fastest nor most athletic of returners we’ve seen at Oklahoma compared to the likes of Antonio Perkins or Jalen Saunders, Thatcher’s impacts on special teams were oftentimes in the clutch against the best competition.
Few plays in the 2000 regular season were bigger than his 93-yard return in Manhattan against No. 2 Kansas State. Setting up the go-ahead score in the second half against Stoops’ mentor Bill Snyder’s experienced Wildcats, that crucial return exemplified Thatcher’s place on that special Oklahoma team. A sneaky good, all-around football player for whom the moment was never too big. All he needed was to be put in the right spot to deliver.
1⃣5⃣ Days Until ️ .— Sooner Gridiron (@soonergridiron) August 17, 2019
Legends Edition ➡️ J.T. Thatcher's kickoff return against Kansas State in 2000 [eventually ruled out at the 2].
Thatcher Highlights ▶️ https://t.co/zgbJeIoz2P#OUDNA | #BoomerSooner pic.twitter.com/sfyv6eFK7Y
Thatcher also played a big part in OU’s dominating defensive performance against Florida State in the 2000 BCS National Championship. The big, physical safety made his presence felt all game long, including on a well-timed pass deflection of Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke that stuffed a Seminole drive late in the third quarter and preserved the slim 6-0 lead the Sooners had at the time.
Thatcher was named a consensus All-American as both a defensive back and returner in 2000, ranking ninth nationally in punt return average and totaling eight interceptions that season. A semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, the dynamic DB also won the Mosi Tatupu Award, which was given annually to the College Football Special Teams Player of the Year from 1997 to 2006.
Thatcher’s season total of 634 punt return yards in 2000 ranks behind only Perkins’ 2002 and ’03 seasons in Sooner history. His 160 yards against Arkansas State, at that time a single-game record, now sits third all-time in the OU record books behind Perkins (277 vs. UCLA, 2003) and Ryan Broyles (209 vs. Oklahoma State, 2009).
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