It might seem as if Jaz Reynolds' football career at Oklahoma has been a long series of missteps.
Reynolds, a fifth-year senior wide receiver, seems resolute in his desire that he not be remembered for his mistakes, but rather for his play. He took a step toward that goal last Saturday, catching four passes for 109 yards as No. 14 Oklahoma (3-0) rolled to a 51-20 win over Tulsa.
It reminded fans of the promise Reynolds had coming out of Eisenhower High School in Houston, before some ill-advised tweets and two lengthy suspensions. It would have been easy to leave Oklahoma and seek a fresh start, but Reynolds said that wouldn't have been the right thing to do.
"I was taught growing up to never quit," Reynolds said. "I could have transferred but in my mind that would be quitting and running away from your problems. You can persevere through it and keep going and there's always light at the end of the tunnel. I just wanted someone to look at me and be able to see that I made it through my situation and they can, too."
As a freshman in 2009, Reynolds played in nine games and caught 13 passes for 256 yards — decent numbers for a newcomer in a high-profile program, especially after he sat out most of his senior season of high school due to an ankle injury.
He redshirted in 2010, but managed to find his way into trouble. Not long after a gunman committed suicide on the University of Texas campus during the week of the annual rivalry game between Oklahoma and the Longhorns, Reynolds tweeted, "Hey everyone in Austin, tx.......kill yourself #evil laugh." A few minutes later, he sent another tweet: "Everyone in austin, tx disregard that last tweet....y'all will mess around n do it lmao."
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops suspended Reynolds indefinitely, saying he was "incredibly disappointed that someone connected with our team would react so callously" and that the Sooners' "rivalry with Texas will not come at the expense of dignity and respect."
Reynolds eventually was reinstated for the 2011 season. He played in 10 games, making six starts, and had 41 catches for 715 yards and five touchdowns, including a 141-yard outing in a win over Ball State. But he was suspended again, this time for the entire 2012 season, for an unspecified team rules violation.
"There were plenty of tough days," Reynolds said. "I had a tough year. I was taught to make every day the best day of your life. You only have one. You're living and make the best of what you have right now. Coming up here and knowing that you're not going to be able to play. You have to practice hard and keep going. You have to grow up and work hard every day."
Apparently, Reynolds grew up enough that Stoops allowed him to return again from suspension. During the preseason, Stoops noted how "Jaz has shown up. He's been more consistent in making plays and doing what we need him to do."
Reynolds understands many people don't receive a second or third chance, and he's grateful for the opportunity to be a team leader as a senior.
"The first couple of years I lacked in the leadership department," he said. "Just being away from the team and being able to come back, and having the opportunity to come back, was a blessing. I had to show my scars and show how much I've been through."
Against Tulsa, Reynolds caught an 82-yard pass from Blake Bell — the longest non-scoring pass play in the program's history and the second-longest pass ever at Owen Field — and moved past the 1,000-yard mark in career receiving yards. It was a day of redemption for a lot of Sooners, offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said.
"It's a great one for Jaz," Heupel said. "There are great lessons for all of our guys in what happened today. Jaz Reynolds, the ups and downs he's been through, staying the course and competing, and having the opportunity to come out and make plays that he did today."
Oklahoma is off this weekend, but will visit No. 22 Notre Dame next Saturday.
Reynolds said he has only one goal for his final season of college football, and it doesn't involve numbers. He wants to help the Sooners end up at the Rose Bowl on the final day of the season, playing for the national championship.
"I just want to get to Pasadena," he said. "That's the whole thing for me. I had a good season before, but it ended pretty bitter because we went to the Insight Bowl. This year, I just want to help the team get to Pasadena. If that means getting 1,000 yards, I'll get 1,000 yards. If it means getting a bunch of pancakes, I'll get a bunch of pancakes. Whatever it takes to get to Pasadena."