CNHI News Service
New Orleans —
Billy Bajema won’t play every offensive snap and likely won’t catch a single pass in the Super Bowl. But for the former Oklahoma State University tight end and Oklahoma City native, simply playing in the pinnacle of his sport is worth more than gold.
“This is something I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little kid and now I’m getting to play in that game, so it’s just really special, really exciting and kind of hard to believe,” Bajema said. “It goes without saying that it’s a special game for everyone. ... After my first seven years in the league never even making to the playoffs, it’s really special and I’m really excited.”
Making his appearance in the Super Bowl on Sunday even more magical is when one looks back to where he was during the offseason. As a free agent after three years with the St. Louis Rams, Bajema wasn’t even certain he would be playing for an NFL team this season. Then the Baltimore Ravens came calling.
“I was still at home when training camps were starting, just working out and hoping for a call while not sure what was going to happen,” Bajema said. “The call could have come from anywhere at all and I would have been happy.
“But the fact that it came from the Ravens, as soon as it was from the Ravens I knew I was going to a join a team with a great history and was a winner. ... It’s just amazing looking back six months ago to not being on a team to where I am today.”
The symmetry of Bajema first trip to the playoffs doesn’t end there. When he lines up in the bulk formation for the Ravens at the Mercedes-Benz Super Dome in New Orleans, he will be lining up against the same team that drafted him out of Oklahoma State — the San Francisco 49ers.
“A lot of the guys that are still on the 49ers are the same guys that I played with,” said Bajema, who was drafted in the seventh round of the 2005 draft by San Francisco and played his first four years for the 49ers. “When we’re out on the field a lot of the guys out there will be guys I’m friends with and guys I played with for a team that I spent more time with than anywhere else in my career. So it’s pretty cool to reach the Super Bowl and be playing against them.”
With the journey the former OSU tight end has traveled since leaving Stillwater, he said family and friends are happy to see him finally get the opportunity to play in this type of game.
“I think everybody’s just excited. All of our friends and family are excited to watch the game,” Bajema said. “They are all just pumped up about it.”
Bajema isn’t the only former Cowboy representing Oklahoma State in the Super Bowl. OSU has four former players on the roster — two for each team — which ranks as the highest of any Big 12 Conference school and is third-most of any college being represented in the game.
“As an OSU guy and a guy who loves the Cowboys, it’s been exciting my whole career to watch their games on Saturdays and the great seasons they’ve been having. What the OSU football program has become is something to take pride in as someone who used to play there and played a small part in helping build the program to where it is today,” Bajema said. “You see it all throughout the league, there are Oklahoma State guys playing all over the place and doing well. That’s just a credit to the program and shows how well they’ve done there and how far the football program at OSU has come.”
Jason Elmquist is the sports editor for the Stillwater NewsPress.