One was on the field for, perhaps, the last time.
One was off the field for, perhaps, the last time.
Kord Hawkins might not play football again.
Tanner Antle might play football for the next four years. Maybe even beyond.
Kord Hawkins is the Claremore linebacker who earned Defensive Player of the Year honors on the Claremore Progress All-Area high school football team last season.
Injuries that bedeviled his junior season also might have ruined his chances to play at the collegiate level.
Tanner Antle is the Foyil quarterback who was the Offensive Player of the Year on the All-Area team.
Mid-year graduation allowed him to enroll at the University of Tulsa in time to participate in spring drills, and his future would appear to be as bright as Hawkins’ future is cloudy.
Both were in Oologah Friday night for the Green Country All-Star game, pitting recently graduated high school seniors from numerous schools throughout Northeast Oklahoma.
Hawkins was playing, loving every snap of the football, exulting over every tackle.
Antle was not playing, because of his enrollment in TU, suffering with every snap of the football, flinching at every tackle.
Hawkins was in the middle of the field, making memories, taking part in every play as if this might be his last game.
Antle was on the sideline, making mental notes, giving thanks that he would have additional games to play.
Hawkins would give anything to play another game, particularly in college.
Antle would give anything to have played Friday night.
Hawkins was born to play football. He is tough. He is smart. He is determined.
Antle is cut from the same material. He is rugged. He is intelligent. He is competitive.
And there they were in Oologah, side by side, brothers of the gridiron, so similar, yet so different.
Each was a Friday night hero. Each was the best at his position.
One will take a step forward and play on the next level, adding another chapter to an already rich legacy.
One will move on to a life without football, having to be content with leaving his legacy intact.
As a senior, Hawkins played linebacker like few others before him. He might not have a chance to prove himself further.
As a senior, Antle played quarterback on an eight-man team. He will have a chance to play linebacker and prove himself on a team that won the Liberty Bowl last season.
Hawkins has enrolled at University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond.
He is asked daily about his desires to play football there.
“It’s like 60 percent ‘no,’ but that 40 percent is really lingering on me,” he said Friday night.
“I hate it when I say ‘no.’ That’s why I want to play, because I feel like I’m letting down the whole town.
“It’s not about the want-to. It’s the knee. I want to pretty bad.”
Hawkins was the first player on the field Friday night when some three dozen all-stars gathered to play an exhibition game.
It was no exhibition for Hawkins.
He played on this Friday night in May like he played 11 Friday nights in the fall. All out. All the way. Ferociously.
On his first play, he smothered a ball carrier. Put a trademark smack on him.
“Just like the old days,” Hawkins said, a wicked smile crossing his face.
“It was great. Awesome. Right in his face mask.”
Hawkins, still weighing the same 185 rock-solid pounds he did in the fall, looked around the field and remembered.
“It could be my last time,” he said.
A few feet away, Tanner Antle had a similar sense of melancholy.
“I’d love to be out there,” he said.
“If they wouldn’t take my scholarship away from me, I’d be out there right now.”
Antle was a 6-4, 190-pound Class B quarterback with big-league offensive numbers, running for 23 touchdowns, passing for 20 more while amassing 2,500 yards.
He might have been just as good on defense. He liked to play defense. He liked to hit people.
That’s one of the reasons TU gave him a scholarship. Not as a quarterback. As a linebacker. TU wants him to hit people for the next four years.
He took part in spring drills and made his presence felt from the outset.
“I had a blast,” he said. “I came out there a little nervous. You know, coming from a small school, I was, like, well, I’ve got to show them I’m not scared.
“So, the first day of pads, I kind of got in a little tussle with one of the linemen. Showed everybody I wasn’t scared.
“Ever since then, we’ve been real cool.”
He smiled, confidence brimming with every breath.
There are no guarantees that he will not be redshirted in the fall, but he has the experience of spring drills on his side.
Plus, he has the linebacker mentality going for him.
That side of him came through as he watched Kord Hawkins tackle yet another runner.
“I’m so pumped right now, just watching the game,” he said.
“As long as I’ve got a helmet on, and I’m cracking some skulls, hitting somebody, I’m happy.”
Hitting the weight room at TU during the spring semester, Antle said, he had added some 10 pounds to his frame.
The added weight was distributed in the form of muscle.
He flexed those muscles, fidgeting as he stalked the sideline.
Tanner Antle would have traded places with Kord Hawkins at that moment.
In the fall, Kord Hawkins might trade places with Tanner Antle.
After the game, Hawkins said, it was time to hang up his gear.
“I’m trying to get my future,” he said.
His future might not include football.
But his past was all football.
Tanner Antle’s football has a past and a future.
One was on the field for, perhaps, the last time.