SAN DIEGO — Before anybody writes about the 1988 football season at Barry Sanders State University, they ought to talk to the Heisman Trophy winner himself.
That's because Oklahoma State wide receiver Hart Lee Dykes is bigger than Sanders, has better hands than Sanders, was a bigger name out of high school than Sanders, and, because the Heisman award winner is just a junior, will be drafted before Sanders.
Dykes is also more concerned about his wardrobe and his jewelry than Sanders, more talkative than Sanders and more controversial than Sanders.
And, Sanders says, he couldn't have become what he is without Dykes.
"All you ever heard about our team this year was Sanders, Sanders, Sanders," the Heisman winner said. "But Hart Lee was a big reason for our success. He took a lot of pressure off me, and I'm sure I couldn't have had the year I had if he wasn't such a big threat. There's really no telling where we'd be without him."
With him, Oklahoma State (9-2) spent another season chasing Nebraska and Oklahoma in the Big Eight Conference and landed a spot in the 11th Sea World Holiday Bowl game against Wyoming Friday night at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
Without him, but at least partly because of their interest in Dykes, football programs at Illinois and Oklahoma landed on probation. And Oklahoma State may not be far behind.
Dykes was USA Today's offensive high school player of the year 4 years ago and was highly recruited out of Bay City (Tex.) High School. But in trying to recruit Dykes, it seems some went too far.
Earlier this year, Illinois Coach Mike White resigned after the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. learned that former Illinois assistant Rick George violated recruiting rules, one of which was giving Dykes money to stay in a hotel.
When Oklahoma was put on probation by the NCAA earlier this month, Dykes' name was linked to the Sooners' recruiting violations.
Dykes tries to put it all aside.
"I have a tremendous future ahead of me," Dykes said. "All of that other stuff in the past is over. I don't want to think about it. When I see other schools that recruited me go on probation, it just tells me that I made the correct choice to attend Oklahoma State."
Oklahoma State has been happy to have him but soon they may not be.
Dykes reportedly received $5,000, a new car and monthly payments of $125 from Oklahoma State, according to Sports Illustrated. David Berst, the NCAA's director of enforcement, said there will be no announcement on Oklahoma State's case until January.
"We've known about the possibility of penalties all year long," Dykes said. "But we decided that there was nothing we could do about it. We've just played the best football we could. Everything else will take care of itself."
The other day, Hart Lee Dykes Sr. was asked about his son's accomplishments at Oklahoma State. The list is long:
In 4 years, Dykes has caught 214 passes for 3,347 yards and 30 touchdowns. He broke the school record for receptions in his sophomore season with 60, and then broke his own record his junior season with 64.
He increased the mark to 74 this season, and in the Cowboys' fifth game, he passed former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers and broke the Big Eight record for receiving yardage. Rodgers amassed 2,350 yards receiving during his career at Nebraska.
"He is one of the finest athletes I've ever been around," said Oklahoma State Pat Jones, who has coached Sanders for 3 years. "He is as good a hand-eye guy as I've ever seen."
All of this hasn't exactly overwhelmed Dykes' father.
"Obviously we're very proud of him," he said. "But, in our eyes, he's just an ordinary kid."
Actually, Hart Lee Dykes Jr. is anything but ordinary.
When he was 9 years old, he entered the punt, pass and kick competition sponsored by the National Football League and won his age division. Then he entered the pitch, hit and run competition sponsored by Major League Baseball and won that.
"My mother (Rita) gave me a hard time about the pitch, hit and run contest," Dykes said. "She said I couldn't win because I was pigeon-toed. When I ran, my feet used to hit together. But I must have run fast enough.
"I just went out there and did the best I could. At the time, I didn't really think of myself as anything special."
Nowadays Dykes has so much confidence, it's as if he knows he's special.
A couple of weeks ago, he was sitting with his legs up on a desk in the Oklahoma State sports information office doing an interview. A man walked by and said, "Get your feet off that table. We didn't teach you to be like that!"
Dykes just glared at the man: "Who are you talking to?"
"I'm talking to you," the man said.
"The only person who taught me was myself," Dykes said, continuing to glare.
The man and Dykes then started laughing. The man was Myron Roderick, Oklahoma State's director of athletics.
"Hart Lee's a stylish player," Jones said. "But I wouldn't call him a hotdog. Flashy maybe, but not a hotdog."