TD for OSU's Staley tugs at heartstrings

STILLWATER, Okla. -- We live in a different college football world these days, and far too often, it sucks.

Tier II media rights, conference footprint, revenue sharing and exit fees have bullied their way into our daily lexicon. That stuff isn't why any of us love the game or any of us got into this game.

Fiery rivalries like Texas-Texas A&M and Missouri-Kansas look likely to be snuffed out.

Change might be better for some. It is decisively not better for all.

Saturday, we got to see one more change. It decidedly did not suck. It might have been the best moment of the 2011 season.

A little over two years ago, Kye Staley suffered a serious knee injury, tearing several ligaments and ending a promising season before it began. He came to Oklahoma State as one of the nation's most hyped recruits at running back, but he was never the same. Eventually, he quit the team.

This game, though...

For all the talk of money and realignment, it's easy to lose sight of what fuels all that cash for everyone to fight over. The game produces a feeling nothing else can. Fans feel it. Players feel it. Coaches feel it. It's different for all, but unique to each.

It keeps pushing us through turnstiles. It keeps coaches around years after they should have retired.

It shoves guys like Staley back on the practice field, armed with the knowledge they'll never be the same player they once were.

Staley rejoined the Cowboys this fall, eventually working his way up to starting fullback. His touches are rare.

He got one on Saturday.

"His story is special. He does all the hard work, the hard-nosed stuff, so for him to get a touch?" said quarterback Brandon Weeden.

"And get in the end zone?"

Weeden flipped an easy pass to Staley, who leaked out of the backfield. He rolled in the end zone for an easy 18-yard score that put the Cowboys up 14-0 in an eventual 59-24 rout of Baylor.

"It was something we saw in preparation, and he’s been calling for that play for a long time," Weeden said.

A 21-year-old kid crossed a line of fake grass painted white into some other grass painted orange. He was wearing some fancy molded plastic and an expensive jersey sewn together by Nike.

It was so, so much more, though.

"That’s one I’ll never forget," Weeden said. "I had chills when I went to celebrate with him. It was unbelievable."

There's something special about that first touchdown. Maybe no player in the league had gone through what Staley had gone through to get it.

"I still remember the days when I just got off the surgery and wasn’t able to do anything, wasn’t able to walk," Staley told reporters on Saturday. "I wasn’t able to do anything. Just the progression that it took and the dedication and the hard work has finally paid off."

Excuse me if my eyes got a little misty when I saw Staley take a moment after the touchdown.

There's a lot of stupid stuff that affects a select few in this game, filling a handful of bank accounts. Shiny new facilities are mostly "needed" only because the Joneses got one last year bigger and better than yours, and that cannot stand. Powerful alums want to swell with pride when they see a shiny new addition to a stadium or some extra suites that only the elite can afford.

Moments like Staley's on Saturday, though?

Those are for everyone.