By Sean Doerre
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
The color of tape on the cleats of a football player usually goes unnoticed, but for Baylor senior free safety Tim Atchison the choice between green and white makes all the difference in the world.
"I just like to look good, feel good and play good, so I like to switch it up every week," Atchison said. "I like to do something different with the uniform either taping up my cleats with a different color or wearing my socks a different way. I just like to mix it up."
Atchison's antics are not lost on his teammates.
"Tim is trying to be the freshest defensive back out there," senior cornerback Clifton Odom said. "When it comes to a game he is going to be fresh and clean head-to-toe. He just has to make sure he looks nice before he goes out on the field."
Atchison's play on the field has looked good as well. Through nine games, he leads Baylor with eight pass breakups and is second on the team with 37 solo tackles.
After playing free safety throughout high school and for his first two seasons at Baylor, Atchison moved to cornerback at the end of his sophomore season. During spring practice this year, he returned to safety.
"I have been playing safety most of my life," he said. "I like the fact that free safety is kind of the leader of the defense. It is my job to make sure everybody is lined up right and to get us in the right defense."
In a tight-knit Baylor secondary that is filled with upperclassmen, Atchison is the most experienced player of the bunch. The fifth-year senior and three-year starter from Copperas Cove, Texas, has made 23 straight starts dating back to the 2008 season and has appeared in 44 games since his arrival at Baylor in 2006.
"Those dudes are some of my best friends," Atchison said of his teammates in the secondary. "I know when we leave here we will have some type of connection, especially since we were the team that made it to a bowl game for the first time in a long time."
The Bears earned bowl eligibility for the first time since 1994 with a 47-42 win against Kansas State on Oct. 24, before racking up another win last weekend with a 30-22 victory on the road against Texas. Now 22nd-ranked Baylor holds a 7-2 overall record and 4-1 mark in Big 12 Conference play heading into a game at Oklahoma State on Saturday.
In the Texas game, Atchison provided a jarring hit on Longhorn tight end Greg Smith that sent the ball flying, before it was taken in by Baylor linebacker Antonio Johnson. The interception led to a touchdown that put the Bears in front for good.
"There is no better feeling," Atchison said of getting an interception. "It makes it hard to even remember what was going on afterwards, because your adrenaline is pumping and the crowd is cheering."
According to Odom, the success of the secondary is a result of experience and familiarity among the group.
"We have been playing together for so long, you kind of feel when certain checks are made," he said. "You can kind of anticipate what is going to happen. You don't need to talk much on the field, you just do it."
After its game at Oklahoma State, Baylor closes the 2010 season with home games against rival Texas A&M and highly-ranked Oklahoma, but Atchison feels that this team can continue to have success.
"This is probably the closest team that I have been on since I have been here," he said. "And it is making it that much easier to fight for each other because you actually love and care about the people who are next to you."