THE LEAD news item on the sports page of the Stillwater News Press on Monday afternoon was the Oklahoma State University baseball team picking up an 11-7 win over the highly fancied Texas Christian University at Allie I. Reynolds Stadium.
The sports editor now has a new back page lead to consider after former Oklahoma State basketballer Mason Cox kicked a goal on debut and had a hand in a few others for Collingwood in the Anzac Day clash at the MCG in front of 85,082 at the MCG – a figure that is about double the population of the university town where Cox gained his engineering degree and played some high-level basketball.
Cox is as seriously bright as he is tall (211cm). Engineers – including a brother who works for NASA - are dotted through the family and he understood the magnitude of what he took part in on Monday. It swamped the Bedlam Series, his university's sporting rivalry with the hated cross-state University of Oklahoma Sooners.
"I was petrified," he said of lining up for the opening goal of the match. "80,000 people there in a game I've only been playing for two years. Cool, let's try this out.
"Luckily it went through."
It was a bit more than luck. Magpie forward line development coach Anthony Rocca said Cox deserved all the credit for his fabulous debut game. An avid watcher of film who asks all the right questions, Cox usually only needs to be told something once, Rocca said.
"He learns quickly," Rocca said. "He's a smart person who picks things up visually. He's got that engineering degree, so that helps him."
Monday at the MCG came almost two years to the day that Cox first picked up a football at the AFL's international combine.
His college basketball career was ending and his belongings had been moved to Houston so he could start an engineering job with ExxonMobil.
Then he accepted an invitation to try his hand at Australian football.
It did not start well – Cox went on YouTube, given he had never heard about the AFL before.
He described the first video he found "as a whole bunch of guys getting their heads taken off."
"I was bit worried at that point," he said.
But he was determined to make the AFL his career when, on his first visit to Melbourne, Magpie list manager Derek Hine took him into the middle of the MCG, asked him to visualise it with a capacity crowd and then reminded him, "this could be your office."
It was a fair first day at the office – 10 disposals, three marks and a goal.
"It's amazing what's happened the over the last few years of my life. It's been a crazy rollercoaster and I wouldn't change it for the world."
His parents, two older brothers and their partners had been tipped off early last week that he was a chance to get picked and they bought their plane tickets just in case. Like every other Collingwood supporter, they waited for the team to be announced and once he was in the squad (and Travis Cloke was out) they packed their bags and travelled across the world.
Rocca said having Cox's family there added to the occasion.
"Maybe they can come to Perth next week to watch him again. They might be our good luck charm," he said.
Which means you can take it to the bank that Cox will be playing again next week.
- with AAP
Mason Cox with his family after his AFL debut on Anzac Day. Picture: AFL Media