By Will Estel
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Jaydan Bird enrolled at the University of Oklahoma after finishing his high school career at Conway Springs High School as a standout linebacker, running back and Kansas commodity. Four years later, he has set aside individual accolades and taken up a unique role for the better of his OU football team.
The Conway Springs, Kan.-native is officially listed as Oklahoma's second-string middle linebacker, but his impact is most felt on offense and special teams. Bird is the only OU player to play on offense and defense, and he loves every snap he sees.
"It's always exciting to get on the field, especially on offense, when you're a defensive player," Bird said. "It's really fun to get out there and show what you can do on offense as well."
Although Bird is asked to contribute in more ways than some of his other teammates, he recognizes the value of his role and knows everyone has a role to play.
"I feel like it's an important role, but every role on the team is important," he said.
Junior center Gabe Ikard believes Bird is exactly the type of team-player OU needs.
"He's the kind of guy you want on your team," Ikard said. "He does what the coaches ask him to do, and when he's given his opportunities, he always seems to make a positive impact."
Putting the team first was never an issue for Bird. He did experience some difficulties adjusting to his new role, though.
"Obviously any Oklahoma player that comes in had a huge role in high school," Bird explained. "They are the man of their town, the big star of their city. It's always a new role coming in here."
Like many of his teammates, Bird's transition to the college game was difficult. However, few can relate to his experience. Senior Lane Johnson may have the best understanding of the roles Bird has played throughout his career.
Before attending OU, Johnson played quarterback and tight end at Kilgore Junior College. He committed to the Sooners as tight end, before redshirting and being moved to the offensive line. In his junior season, Johnson was asked to play defensive end before moving back to the offensive line. He is currently listed as Oklahoma's starting left tackle.
"I was hesitant to move around at first because I had never played any of those positions," Johnson said. "It was probably more natural for Jaydan because he played running back and linebacker in high school."
Bird's impact on offense comes as a blocker in Oklahoma's now-famous Belldozer package. Bird lines up with fullback Aaron Ripkowski and Blake Bell for a majority of the Sooners' red zone and short-yardage situations.
In the eyes of the fans, Bell steals the show, but the players and coaches know the package would be nothing without the offensive line and blockers doing their jobs, as well.
"All of our coaches acknowledge the blocking," Bird said. "They know it's not a one-man show. The offensive line has a big role, too. The play wouldn't have been successful if all of us hadn't done our job."
Despite the possibility of being under the radar by the majority of fans, Bird recognizes the value his coaches put into him as a fluid component in the team's game plan.
"It feels good to be valued," Bird said. "I'm just glad I can help the team the ways that I can, wherever I'm being utilized whether it be on offense, defense, special teams or wherever they need to put me."
Such a team-first mentality like Bird's does not go unnoticed by his teammates either.
"Jaydan is a very unselfish guy," Ikard said. "He does whatever he can do to help the team. He is a guy that puts team goals before his individual goals."
Johnson echoed those statements, saying Bird, "is always positive and always fun to be around. He is very energetic and a great teammate."
Bird will finish his senior season with the same positive attitude with which he began and continue to play whatever role asked of him in the best interest of his fellow teammates.
"I'm grateful for the roles and the opportunities the coaches have given me on the field," Bird said. "I'm glad to help the team win in any way I can. That's my mindset: just help the team win at whatever position they put me."