Alex Elkins was sitting behind his table at Big 12 Media Day, smoothly answering questions with a grin and a slight Texas twang.
Most of the inquiries were the same for the senior Oklahoma State linebacker. He was asked about the team's defense, the upcoming season, and the state of the team after the departure of superstars, quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon.
But mostly, he was asked about his past, which includes no high school football and a little in junior college.
"How did this happen? How did you get here?" they asked over and over as different reporters shuffled up to his station.
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He simply grinned, and answered the same way he had just minutes earlier.
"Everything has happened so fast," he said. "I haven't even had time to sit back and think about it because if I do, it'll just slow me down."
Elkins graduated from Keller High School in 2009. He was a star of the rugby and baseball teams and had aspirations of becoming a Navy SEAL. But instead of putting on the country's uniform, he found himself in a blue jersey at an open tryout at Blinn College in Bryan.
"It was a grind," Elkins said. "You have to really want it in junior college. I remember coming out on Saturdays and looking up into the stands -- I say stands because you can't even call it a stadium -- and only seeing your parents and no one else. That hurt."
Elkins' 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame won the coaches over, and he earned a spot on the roster with the eventual 2009 NJCAA national champions.
The linebacker said he was "like a wide-eyed child" during his time at Blinn, soaking up any information he could and working on every detail of his game. It also helped that he had a very good offense to practice against, including one very big name -- 2010 Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton.
"It was cool to play against him every day," Elkins said. "He likes to play, and he made it fun for everybody. Sometimes we would be out there and the heat would start getting to us, but he always had something funny to say. He's one of those guys that you can't figure out why he's so happy."
Once he was done in Bryan, Elkins accepted a scholarship from Oklahoma State and began his career as a starter for the Cowboys by registering six tackles against Louisiana-Lafayette.
"It wasn't a surprise to me," OSU linebackers coach Glenn Spencer said. "It was all how fast he could catch on mentally; his limitations were never physical."
Elkins has the physical tools. There's a rumor that he ran a 4.5-second 40-yard dash during his tryout at Blinn. Watch him play and you'll believe it to be true.
But the physical tools aren't enough for him. Not only does he want to be a great player, but he also wants to be a great teammate, and he's working to achieve that goal.
"I wanted to be a leader last year," he said. "I was born a leader, but I hadn't earned the team's respect yet. I feel like I can do that this year because that's what I'm all about. Doing whatever it takes for my teammates and overall for a victory."
Respect is something that fellow linebacker Shaun Lewis said Elkins earned early last season.
"His story is remarkable, man," he said. "It's not hard to believe when you're around him, though. We'll be in practice and he'll learn something in five minutes that took me years to learn. Combine that with his toughness and you've got a great player."
Elkins' toughness is something that most players said they never questioned. One instance that was brought up occurred when Arizona visited Stillwater last September.
Elkins went down with a leg injury after making a tackle and was helped to the training table on the sideline. It was early in the game and the score was tight, so it wasn't an ideal situation to miss playing time.
He sat on the table watching the game intently while getting looked over. The news was bad, but not devastating.
"I had hyper-extended my knee," he said. "It wasn't feeling too good, and was pretty tender, swelling up. A coach came over and asked the trainer if I was coming back or not, and I looked at him before they could say anything and said 'Yeah, I'm good to go.'"
That was just the beginning of the stories his teammates had. Elkins has proved that he's a competitor, and that he hasn't come all this way for nothing.
Maybe it's the rugby attitude he brings to the game and to life in general, or maybe the fresh motivation he has to compete at the highest level in his new sport. Whatever it is, it's working. And everyone is noticing.
"He's handling this the right way," Spencer said. "He's humble, eager to learn, and has the desire to be the best player on the field. He wants to be great, and at this rate, he will be great."