In 2009, one of them most explosive high school football teams in Oklahoma belonged to Southmoore. Even though the program was only in its second year of existence, it had become a must-see event whenever it rolled into opposing stadiums.
With Kendal Thompson at quarterback, Austin Haywood as the dynamic tight end and Andrew Long in the backfield, they created excitement in class 6A. But it was the playmakers the SaberCats had at wideout that made the unit a truly dangerous squad.
Nyko Symonds led the SaberCats with 37 catches for 874 yards. Right behind him was Derek Serowski, who had 29 receptions and 580 yards. Both were second on the team with seven touchdown catches.
When the season ended, Symonds and Serowski went their separate ways. However, four years after their senior years at Southmoore, even though they have taken different paths, Symonds and Serowski find themselves on the same team again as members of the upstart Oklahoma Baptist program.
“I think it’s special,” Serowski said. “I’ve done it once before with him at Southmoore. It was a special deal there. And to be able to bring it to a college level, I think it’s more special because traditions are truly being started here. In high school, you transferred in because of housing districts. Now here, everyone is recruited from all over. Being able to lead this team and make traditions, is all the more important.”
Neither Serowski nor Symonds had planned on ever being at OBU when they left high school. In fact, the Bison football program was still two years away from being revived when they graduated.
Symonds walked on at Oklahoma where he joined SaberCats Haywood (2010), Thompson (2011) and Julian Wilson (2010). He became the holder on the field goal team and earned a varsity letter with the Sooners.
However, after two years, Symonds realized he was missing something. Not only did he miss being a receiver, something else was not right for him.
So when his high school coach took the job to build the OBU football program from ground up, Symonds decided he wanted to be part of it and transferred from a D-1 powerhouse to an NAIA team that hadn’t played a game since 1940.
“It wasn’t a tough decision,” Symonds said. “Having played for coach Jensen before, I already knew the type of man, the type of coach he was. And the things he likes to do as far as spreading the ball out on offense. I felt like it was a perfect fit for me football wise. But more than that, this is where God wants me to be for my education, a captain on this team and help lead these younger guys to be men of God as well as lead them on the field.”
Even as he had to sit out all of 2012 as Jensen put the team together, Symonds knew he made the right decision for him. It became even more clear with success he has had on the field this season.
“For me, it’s just been a God thing,” Symonds said. “God has just been working on my heart. As I’ve done that. He’s been blessing me like crazy. I did go to OU and walk on. I know a lot of guys up there and I still talk to them. But this is where God wants me. More than anything, it just trust in God and he has a plan for me.”
Serowski initially signed a national letter of intent in February of 2010 with Central Oklahoma. But after winning state titles in the 100 and 200 meter that spring, he began to garner interest from Division 1 track teams. But, UCO would not release him.
Instead of going to Central Oklahoma, Serowski spent a month at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M before dropping out and going back home. In the spring he went back to UCO, then transferred to Colorado State.
After sitting out of football in 2010 and 2011, Serowski was set to get his gridiron career back up and going again with the Rams in 2012. Then he got news that would change his entire game plan.
“I had to grow up pretty quick,” Serowski said. “Wasn’t really expecting to have a wife and kid. We were engaged but the kid part kind of surprised us. We were in Colorado and I was playing at Colorado State. We got the news and we decided what was best to move back. Basically from there, it’s been all about them.”
Serowski transferred to OBU in 2012 and had to miss another year of football. When he finally hit the field this season, it looked like he never left it. The combination of him and Symonds have allowed the Bison to be a potent offense in the Southern Athletic Conference.
“It’s awesome,” Symonds said. “Derek is a great receiver. He’s 6-3, 200 pounds. Where as I’m 5-11, 175. He can stretch the field and he can tear defenses up. Whether its him, whether it’s me ... whoever is making plays, that’s what it’s all about. That’s the good thing about it, we have the backs and receivers to do it. I will always love Derek on the other side of me. It’s nice. The defense can’t just key in on one of us. They have to worry about us both.”
Jensen likes the other intangibles they bring to the team.
“They have both competed at the D1 level and know what it means to prepare,” Jensen said. “Their work ethic has helped set the tone for many of the other players in our program. I receive the most satisfaction in knowing that they are enjoying the game and the family atmosphere OBU provides.”
When they were catching passes on Friday nights in Moore, neither Serowski or Symonds envisioned they would wind up in Shawnee. But they realize the young boys they were then are far from the men they have turned into.
“When you get older, you start to see it’s not about you,” Serowski said. “It’s about the team. I think both of us have been able to see that being at higher programs. And be able to bring stuff like that here and show it to the younger guys.”
Michael Kinney Follow me @eyeamtruth firstname.lastname@example.org