When the Big 12 announced it was bringing back a championship game and it would be played in Arlington, TCU linebacker Sammy Douglas must have heard the news.
He probably put two and two together — if the Horned Frogs could get to the championship game, he would have a chance to play in his hometown.
Certainly as the Frogs closed in on a championship game berth with victories two weeks ago at Texas Tech and last week against Baylor, he had to have remembered.
Had to. Right?
“I didn’t, honestly,” he said with a forgive-me smile. “I really didn’t. Because I wasn’t focusing on that. I was just focusing on the next team coming up.”
Makes sense — the career-long backup was called on to start in Lubbock because of an injury to leading tackler Travin Howard and wound up with a team-high eight tackles in the Frogs’ 27-3 victory. He started again last week in his last home game and had four tackles in a 45-22 victory against Baylor, which clinched TCU’s spot in Saturday’s Big 12 championship game opposite Oklahoma.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior who starred at Arlington High was as responsible as anyone down the stretch for getting the Frogs to AT&T Stadium — three miles from his old neighborhood — and the destination wasn’t even on his mind.
“Sammy, he typifies what a TCU player is,” coach Gary Patterson said. “He’s athletic, but he’s playing behind a Travin Howard that’s probably one of the better linebackers that’s ever played here. For him, you’re always happy because he’s a guy who never complains.”
Douglas has seven starts in 48 games at TCU, perhaps not the career he envisioned as a high school junior when he was the first commitment in the 2013 signing class, the first that would play for the Frogs in the Big 12.
Slated to start as a junior in 2015, he played two series of the season opener before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
That’s when Howard entered the picture at linebacker as a converted safety and wound up becoming the leading tackler in the Patterson era. Douglas’ chance was gone, although he remained a special teams stalwart.
But every now and then, when needed, Douglas delivered on his potential. He had 17 tackles in a game against Arkansas two years ago when he started in place of Howard, who had been slowed by an appendectomy a month earlier.
Douglas says he thinks “all the time” about what could have been had he been a starter all along.
“But I can’t let that stop me from doing what the team needs and what I need to do,” he said.
“It wouldn’t help at all.”
Attitude and ability helped Douglas earn his place at TCU. Saturday, he gets paid back with a chance to play and win a conference title in his hometown. He may even get one more chance, if the Frogs were to land a Cotton Bowl berth.
“As a head coach, I look at guys who didn’t get as many chances but they don’t complain about it,” Patterson said. “When you have more of those kind of guys than others is when you win championships.”
No. 11 TCU vs. No. 3 Oklahoma
11:30 a.m. Saturday, KDFW/Ch. 4