By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Something earth-shattering happened the other day, something remarkable, something precedent-setting, something mind-boggling.
Clint Chelf was allowed to speak to the media.
Oklahoma State’s quarterback had been muzzled for most of the season by his coach, Mike Gundy. But late last week, after the Cowboys’ first practice in preparation for their Jan 3 Cotton Bowl matchup with Missouri, the Enid native was permitted to speak with the press.
Gundy’s reasons for the gag order on Chelf and fellow OSU quarterback J.W. Walsh are unclear. Perhaps he thought Chelf would express his unhappiness with his on-again, off-again starting status this season, would lambaste coaches and teammates, would go all Dez Bryant in front of a bank of microphones, cameras and notebooks.
He needn’t have worried. Chelf is no wide-eyed freshman. He is a 23-year-old college graduate, for heaven’s sake. He received his diploma a year ago and has been in graduate school ever since.
Besides, Chelf has conducted himself with nothing but class throughout his rather mercurial OSU career.
He was a freshman in 2010 and 2011, during the reign of Brandon Weeden. He bided his time, waited his turn and figured to be ready to step into the starting job in 2012.
But along came the wunderkind from Illinois, Wes Lunt, and Walsh. He went from heir apparent to third team.
Chelf didn’t whine, didn’t hang his head, didn’t quit. He kept his mouth shut and kept working. Lunt got hurt, then so did Walsh, then Lunt got hurt again. When the smoke cleared, there stood Chelf.
He started the Cowboys’ final five games, including the Heart of Dallas Bowl victory over Purdue, throwing for more than 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns, and once again appeared to be a lock as the Pokes’ starting quarterback in 2013.
And so he was, until the third series of the Cowboys’ season-opener against Mississippi State in Houston. Chelf went just three of six for 11 yards, when Gundy yanked him in favor of Walsh. Suddenly, Walsh was again the guy, and Chelf was on the bench.
That lasted until Oct. 19 when Walsh threw two interceptions, including one in the end zone when the Cowboys were in position to score.
Suddenly, the pendulum swung Chelf’s way again. His first play was a disaster. He was hit as he threw and the pass was picked off. But Gundy stuck with him.
The decision paid off. The Cowboys closed out TCU, then reeled off five straight victories, including a 49-17 pounding of sixth-ranked Baylor, in no small part due to Chelf.
Over the weekend, Chelf and linebacker Shaun Lewis received Bob Fenimore Awards, given annually to the top OSU offensive and defensive players.
Not surprisingly, Chelf leveled no scathing blasts during his impromptu news conference the other day, raised nary a hackle, nor a single eyebrow. The most revealing bit of news to come out of the interview was the fact Chelf dressed as Legolas the Elf to attend a screening of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” with a group of teammates the other night at a Stillwater theater.
Chelf the elf is no longer on the shelf, and likewise neither is he muzzled.
It’s about time.
Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.