Listen to Austin 360 Radio

'He’s got that makeup': Why Spencer Rattler is poised to reach his lofty goals for Sooners in 2021

Ryan Aber
Oklahoman

NORMAN — Spencer Rattler has never shied away from dreaming big.

“I’ve been setting goals since I can remember,” the OU quarterback said. “I just got off the phone with my quarterback coach a while ago. … We’ve been talking about national championships, Heismans, since I was 8 years old. To be pretty close to it, and going for that goal, is something we’ve got to check off the box.

“I’ve checked off a lot of boxes (and) I’m excited to see what boxes I can check off, hopefully.”

Rattler enters the 2021 season, which the Sooners start at 11 a.m. Saturday against Tulane in New Orleans, as the Heisman Trophy favorite and he’s a big reason why OU is a national championship contender.

He’s become one of the faces of college football, one of its most marketable personalities in a year where — with the NCAA’s new Name, Image, and Likeness rules — being marketable as a college player means more than it ever has.

Rattler was one of the first college athletes on Cameo, a site that allows fans to buy personalized videos from celebrities, and for awhile was the most expensive. As of Saturday morning, Cameos from Rattler started at $179. Among college athletes on the site, only Texas running back Bijan Robinson, at $189, draws more.

In late July, just before Sooners preseason camp opened, Rattler became the first college athlete to sign autographs at a major memorabilia convention when he appeared at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago. An autograph from Rattler cost $150, photos with him another $150 and inscriptions were $60.

Tramel:Why former Sooners coach Bob Stoops should do well on Fox's Big Noon Kickoff show

Carlson:Why OU, OSU are ready for college football to be normal and why it never will be again

But when Rattler was listing those long-term goals with his personal quarterback coach, Mike Giovando, over the last decade or so, the amount of money he’d be charging for a video or an autograph wasn’t on the list.

Instead, it was about on-the-field achievement and on-the-field promise — among them become the best quarterback in Arizona high school history, break the state’s passing records, get a college scholarship, start at a Power Five school, win a national championship, win a Heisman Trophy and become the first pick in the NFL Draft.

He’s more than halfway there, and hoping to take care of two more of those goals this season — setting himself up to finish that list off next spring and move on to his next set of goals.

Among the biggest knocks on Rattler’s game last season, especially early, was on his decision-making. Critical turnovers late against Kansas State and Iowa State early in the season ended the Sooners’ national title hopes — and Rattler’s Heisman aspirations for last year — before they really got off the ground.

Rattler showed steady improvement in that area, throwing just two interceptions over the last seven games after throwing five over the first four, and it’s been a primary focus of the offseason.

“I feel like I had like only two turnovers in fall camp, and they were on 7-on-7,” Rattler said. “Just being more consistent, being more decisive. Smarter with the ball.”

After an interception and a fumble early against Texas last year, Rattler was benched for most of the second quarter, a message from Lincoln Riley that he needed to make adjustments quickly.

Rattler took the message to heart.

“I think he’s able to self-correct a lot quicker,” Riley said of the difference in Rattler from last year to this. “Typically, even if there’s a mistake, he has a pretty good idea of what it was. He’s certainly been more consistent and more trusting with his decisions and his reads. I think that it allows you to feel out and play some of the game situations a little better.”

'Have to be ready for anything':With only two scholarship RBs eligible, who will OU turn to next?

'Make every rep count':A motivated & scary defensive line tops the biggest takeaways from OU preseason camp

The same traits that have set Rattler up for success are helping him not get overwhelmed by the pressure that can come along with being the OU starting quarterback and one of the faces of college football.

“It’s just knowing who you are — not trying to be somebody who’s fake,” Rattler said. “Just being yourself. Staying humble. Being confident at the same time. Luckily I had that light coming into Oklahoma and was kind of used to the cameras and the people coming up and all that type of stuff. So it really wasn’t a whirlwind when I got here. But you definitely have to stay sharper when you’re the quarterback here. It’s a big-time position.”

Rattler also knows how to keep being successful reaching his goals and how to keep from being overwhelmed by their magnitude.

“Because I haven’t got that stuff yet,” he said. “I gotta go get it. As a team, we gotta go get a national championship. We gotta go get a Big 12 championship. So once we get that, we can celebrate after. But we gotta take those day by day and step by step to get there — myself and the team. I think everybody on the team knows that for their own personal and the team goals. All the coaches know it. 

“It just feels different this year. I think it’s going to be a fun year.”

While Rattler doesn’t shy away from talking about those big-picture goals, he’s not stressing about them.

“There’s no pressure at all,” Rattler said. “That’s what we worried too much on last year was pressure and expectations and all that stuff. We’ve just gotta go out, play ball and do our job. That’s really what it comes down to.”

Everything else will take care of itself.

“He’s already mentally prepared for this stuff,” Giovando said. “It’s not going to be overwhelming to him. He’s ready. Mentally, he’s got that makeup. It’s his time.”

Tramel's ScissorTales:College football conferences are sitting with backs to the wall thanks to the SEC