Oklahoma State football made a huge turnaround starting in 2001, leading to an emergence of respect on the national scene that hadn't been felt in Stillwater since the late 1980s.
I've decided to go back and look at some of the biggest players for the Cowboys in the past decade and rank who I thought were worthy of earning "Top 10" status. Keep in mind that, for this list, I left off both offensive and defensive linemen, mainly due to how difficult it is to measure them quantitatively, despite how good they were. Even the defensive line does a lot of things that aren't measured on stat sheets.
Guys like Nathan Peterson and Russell Okung both could have easily been on here, I just chose not to.
So here are your Top 10 Oklahoma State football players of the the 2000's.
The first time Perrish Cox touched the football as an Oklahoma State Cowboy he scored, returning a kickoff for a touchdown in OSU's opening day victory against Missouri State in 2006.
With such a boom his career started with, it's a shame it ended the way it did, being suspended by head coach Mike Gundy for the 2010 Cotton Bowl.
Cox finished his career with 2,804 yards and four touchdowns in the kick return category, 134 tackles, and 10 interceptions.
Not many tight ends in college football can say they're one of their school's top 10 all-time receivers. Brandon Pettigrew can.
At 6-foot-5, 265 pounds, Pettigrew was a house and was the 20th overall pick by the Detroit Lions in the 2009 NFL Draft.
I still feel that Pettigrew was the best tight end in college football during the 2007 and 2008 seasons, as he was one of the most sure-handed receivers around. Plus, he was a great blocker.
Pettigrew finished his career at Oklahoma State with 1,450 yards and nine touchdowns.
I'll never forget the time during high school before driving out to Stillwater from Tulsa with my friend Andrew, sitting outside at Sonic ordering food. Also sitting outside was a guy in his mid-20's wearing an Oklahoma State t-shirt. He asked if we were going to the game and we told him "yea."
I then said to him, "man, you look a lot like Luke Phillips." He laughed and replied, "I am Luke Phillips."
Apparently it was the first time he'd been recognized since graduating.
Phillips was an outstanding kicker for the Cowboys in the early part of the decade, ranking sixth in Oklahoma State's all-time scoring list and has the school's third-longest field goal in history of 53 yards against Texas in 2003.
But I feel the biggest kick of his career came in the 2001 Bedlam game against Oklahoma, which the Cowboys won 16-14. Just before half time, Phillips nailed a 52-yarder, which was one of 2 52-yard FG's he'd hit during the game.
"Luke Phillips" was synonymous with "clutch."
Bell's fumble-itis with the Broncos wasn't something that ever sat too well with Denver fans, but while the Texas native was at Oklahoma State, he helped bring back the nickname "Tailback U" to Stillwater.
A running back with sub-4.4 speed, Bell was a two-time All-Big 12 selection who rushed for over 3,400 career yards. He is sixth on the school's all-time rushing list and averaged 5.2 yards per attempt, which is 0.1 YPA more than Thurman Thomas.
Bell has the school's third longest rush from scrimmage, breaking a 95-yard blast up the middle against Texas Tech in 2003.
Vernand Mornecy's biggest drawback was that he had to sit in the shadow of Tatum Bell. Although he was the backup for a better part of his career, Morency still had 2,661 yards and 23 touchdowns on the ground for OSU.
Another big part of bringing "Tailback U" back to Oklahoma State, he's ninth all-time on the school's career rushing list and his 269 yards on the ground against Kansas in 2003 also ranks ninth in the Cowboys' best single-game rushing performances. Barry Sanders holds five of the eight spots ahead of Morency in that category.
If only he could have stayed away from NCAA violations, Dez Bryant could have saved Oklahoma State from a 2009 season that was simply over-hyped. Without him, the Cowboys just couldn't find a way to click.
Playing less than two and a half seasons in Stillwater, Bryant acquired 2,425 yards and 29 touchdowns on the receiving end of Zac Robinson's passes and three more trips to the end zone returning punts.
He set the school record for receiving touchdowns in a season with 19 as a true sophomore in 2008 and his 236 receiving yards in a single game against Houston that same season is second only to Adarius Bowman's 300 at Kansas in 2006.
I'll never forget sitting in my Orlando hotel room in 2007, getting ready to head to the Capital One Bowl, when I turn on the TV and saw that Darrent Williams had been shot and killed in Denver that morning.
My heart was broken.
Williams was one of my favorite Cowboys of all-time. A four year starter, "Niner" (as I liked to call him) tied the NCAA record for interceptions returned for a touchdown (5) and finished his career with nine total trips to the end zone.
As a freshman in 2001 against Baylor, Williams returned two picks for touchdowns, one of which was for 85 yards and is the fourth longest INT return in Oklahoma State history.
He finished his career with 11 interceptions.
Despite being Oklahoma State's record holder in nearly every passing category, breaking marks set by current head coach Mike Gundy in the late 1980s, Zac Robinson's lack of an ability to come through in the clutch is the only thing keeping him from being higher on this list.
Without Dez Bryant, Robinson realistically doesn't have the career numbers he did acquire, but it's hard to argue against 8,317 career yards and 66 touchdowns through the air and another 1,858 and 22 on the ground.
If it weren't for Mike Gundy letting Jenni Carlson know that he was a 40-year-old man, Robinson might not have gotten his shot in time to break so many records, but that's just the way things work out sometimes.
What can I say, his numbers are remarkable.
Before getting drafted by the Chicago White Sox (now with the Kansas City Royals) as a third baseman, Josh Fields made his initial impact at Oklahoma State in a backup role.
During the 2001 Bedlam game in Norman, starting quarterback Aso Pogi had a horrific first half, so then-head coach Les Miles inserted freshman Josh Fields. The rest is history.
Miles, Fields and Rashaun Woods were the three biggest players in turning Oklahoma State's program around after it saw only one bowl appearance between 2002 and 1988, when Bob Simmons took the Pokes to the 1997 Alamo Bowl.
Fields had five 300-yard passing games (tied for most with Zac Robinson and two more than Mike Gundy had), three of which came as a sophomore.
Fields' 3,145 passing yards and 31 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2002 is the highest single-season mark in both categories in Oklahoma State history.
In three seasons in the orange and black and only two as a starter, Fields threw for 6,090 yards, 55 touchdowns and 25 interceptions.
He never did make much of himself in the NFL, but Rashaun Woods was a vital part of turning the Oklahoma State program around in the early part of the decade.
With twenty 100-yard games, he had so many huge receptions throughout his career it's hard to find the best. Whether it was making up for the under-thrown fade pass against Southern Miss in the Houston Bowl, resulting in a touchdown and sealing OSU their first bowl victory since the 1980's, or his huge game against Oklahoma in Stillwater in 2002, giving the Pokes back-to-back victories over the Sooners, Woods was simply a beast.
But, by far his biggest reception of all came as a freshman in 2001 in Norman, on a pass thrown by fellow freshman and back-up quarterback Josh Fields in the back, left corner of the end zone late in the fourth quarter, pulling the upset over Oklahoma, eliminating any chance the Sooners had for a national championship and earning the Cowboys only their fourth victory of the season.
The school's all-time receiving leader and an Oklahoma native, it's hard to argue against Woods being the greatest Cowboy of the past decade.
Vernon Grant (RIP)
D'Juan and Donovan Woods