Sometimes the recruiting process can be a long and arduous journey. For some athletes, it can take two or three years before they can finally envision which school they want to be at for the next three to four years of their lives.
That was not the case for Austin Stogner. The Prestonwood Christian Academy tight end knew right away where he wanted to be. He didn’t have to be wined and dined or handed a bunch of flattering compliments. The moment Stogner arrived on the University of Oklahoma campus, he knew he was going to be a Sooner.
“I always had an eye for Oklahoma,” Stogner said. “I knew when I took my first visit that that’s the school I’m going to go.”
Stogner took his first official visit to Oklahoma during the spring of his sophomore year. From that point on, the 6-foot-7, 232-pound tight end only saw crimson and cream.
Growing up in Plano, Texas, Stogner is more than two hours away from Norman. He is surrounded by other schools such as TCU and Texas. He is within a few hours’ drive of half of the Big 12.
Yet, none of them appealed to Stogner like the Sooners.
“It’s just a feeling of it. I love the campus, love everything about it,” Stogner said. “The way they use the tight end, it’s special.”
With his height and frame, special is a great way to describe the way challenges Stogner puts on defenders.
“Stogner is still raw from a technical perspective, especially in terms of his route-running, but the physical tools are clearly in place,” a recruiting analyst said. “He’s got the size and athleticism to eventually become a consistent matchup problem for opposing defenses.”
However, it hasn’t been all roses and rainbows for Stogner. Heading into the summer last year he suffered a knee injury. It was the first serious injury of his career so it was uncertain how he would handle it.
“I knew that I was going to still come back and play,” Stogner said. “It was just a matter of time. I struggled through it throughout the whole year but now I’m good now.”
The injury forced Stogner to miss the first three games of his junior campaign. Despite that, he still accounted for 41 catches for 459 yards and 10 touchdowns.
While Stogner knew he would be back on the field, it was still brutal for him to have to be on the sideline and not being able to help his teammates.
“The toughest part was just watching my teammates play and me not being out there to help them, that was the biggest part for me,” Stogner said. “ It was my first time being injured. So I think it’s a learning experience for sure, learned a lot. But it was tough. It was tough not being out there for them.”
Yet, almost immediately after he returned, Stogner fell back into the groove.
“My second game back is when I started to get back into it,” Stogner said. “I just felt it. I felt good in practice, felt better. I knew I was back.”
Aside from the injury, Stogner was also going through a position change. After playing predominately at defensive end as a sophomore, his coaching staff decided to make tight end became his primary position as a junior.
“You could see that he created matchups situations that were almost invincible,” Prestonwood coach Chris Cunningham said. “Whether it was a linebacker trying to run with him or a safety trying to body up, he was going to create some advantage with his size, his quickness and his hands. When he was in there (on offense), we saw it and said those things we need to have more of. As a staff, we said we decided we’ll figure out something at defensive end, but our offensive production can be greatly improved by putting him on that side of the ball.”
It didn’t take long for Stogner to realize which side of the ball he preferred.
“I like offense more,” Stogner said. “Yeah, I like offense. Because I get to catch passes and I get to hit people Tight end is one special position where you can catch passes and also hit people.”
While catching passes and dealing out hard hits came naturally to Stogner, there was another aspect to the position he knew he had to work on. In order to be an effective tight end and not just a glorified wide receiver, blocking had to become second nature to him.
“That was one of my main focal points, my main focal points of the season was becoming a better blocker,” Stogner said. “So I did, we did that working with coach, really helped me a lot. All it is is just practice, having the mentality to go out there and block. It’s a big thing. My ability to block and also catch passes at the same time. Will create mismatches, mismatches at the next level. So that’s a big thing.”
What works in Stogner’s favor is that he is a willing blocker.
“I love to block, I always loved to block,” Stogner said. “Sophomore year they didn’t really have me blocking very much. I played mostly defense sophomore year, so junior year it was just technical things I had to work out.”
The hard work paid off as Stogner as he helped Prestonwood compile a 12-2 record and win the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools State Championship.
In the title game, the Lions down 18 points heading into the fourth quarter. Stogner had four catches for 55 yards before they started double-teaming him. His presence then opened up opportunities for his teammates to come up with big plays.
“I won one in basketball the year before but in football, it was my first state title so it was good,” Stogner said. “ to finally being able to come down, we came back from 18 in the fourth quarter.”
Along with winning a state title, Stogner ended the year as the No. 2 ranked tight end in the country according to Rivals.com. He was also rated as the 109th best player in the country.
But even before Stogner had made the full switch to tight end, he had programs salivating over him.
“It was last January after the Nike opening in Houston where I got seven offers the next week,” Stogner said. “My first one was three weeks into my sophomore season. And then I only got one, and then January rolled up and the Nike opening, and then I got a lot that week. That’s when my recruiting started to pick up.”
Stogner has picked up almost 30 offers from schools around the country. They include Alabama, Florida, Arizona, Florida State, Auburn, LSU, Notre Dame, Michigan, Oklahoma State and TCU.
“I think he had a good sense of what he was looking for to begin with,” Cunningham said. “To me that that is the start of handling that well. I think so many kids go up there not knowing what they’re looking for in the school they want to go to and it becomes overwhelming. From the git-go, Austin knew what he was looking for.”
What Stogner was looking for was Oklahoma.
“It was crazy because I knew I was going to go to school there,” Stogner said. “So I was really excited. I waited out. I still needed to visit the other schools the next year. But yeah, I guess they kind of knew. They knew I was going to commit.”
It took Stogner just two months to make it official. He committed to Oklahoma on June 23 after another visit to the school.
“I visited in June, me and Spencer Rattler the same day,” Stogner said. “And I committed that Friday, and he committed that Monday or Sunday.”
The way the Sooners have shown a willingness to involve their tight end. He sees himself fitting the mold set by Mark Andrews.
“Mark Andrews, he was a great player,” Stogner said. “They use him as a priority in that offense.”
Sophomore Grant Calcaterra is currently the only one tight end on the Sooners roster. By the time Stogner arrives in 2019, he could have an opportunity to fill a huge need.
“I’m not going to place any numbers around it, but I’m gonna work my butt off when I get up there,” Stogner said. “I’m working my butt off now. So I’m getting ready.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider with EyeAmTruth.com