The six-foot, one-inch frame of the bruising Bulldog fullback and Offensive Player of the Year Taven Birdow, carried much more than just a football across the goal line during the third quarter of Altus’ 31-28 win over the Collinsville Cardinals last December.
During the second of his three rushing touchdowns in the game, he carried three Collinsville players who fought and struggled but just could not bring him to the turf.
He also carried years of preparation for that kind of moment, his junior year spent at the world-renowned IMG Academy playing with the best footballers in the nation.
Most of all he carried within him the refusal to be denied.
Birdow was a huge piece of the Bulldogs team and a key reason they were able to claim their first state championship since 1971.
After a stellar sophomore season, he left Oklahoma for IMG Academy in Florida. His junior year was spent learning how to be the absolute best football player he could be. After all, he stepped onto the field with the most elite players in high school football everyday during practice.
But his willingness to come home stemmed from his desire to play his senior year of high school football as a Bulldog and also to bring a championship trophy back to Altus High School.
He did not disappoint either, faking defenders and stiff-arming would-be tacklers to the tune of 2,472 yards and 30 touchdowns on the ground, an impressive number and one of the best rushing totals in the State of Oklahoma.
His 317-yard day against Del City broke his own AHS record, and his 4,705 yards for his high school career broke the career record at the high school as well.
Needless to say, Birdow has been impressive to watch.
When he runs he puts his body on the line, and should somebody step in front of him, he will not hesitate to put the opponent’s body on the line as well. He is solid and when he crashes into defenders, he leaves each person flat on his back. A reminder to just get out of the way next time he has the ball.
He has had a tremendous high school career doing it.
Now he leaves everything behind. Awards, accomplishments and all, he has his sights set on the next chapter.
“It was an honor to receive those awards, but I have kind of put that in the past,” Birdow said. “I’m sure I’ll love to reminisce on it when I’m older, but I can’t be worried about high school now.”
Birdow moves on to play football as a fullback for the Air Force, choosing that over Army, Navy, Southern Mississippi, Tulsa, and Richmond.
Plenty of people wanted his talent, but few were worthy enough in Birdow’s eyes.
Now a dream is coming true for him.
“I‘m really looking forward to experiencing college football,” Birdow said. “I have watched it since I was little and I have dreamed of doing it. My dad played at Oklahoma State so I guess I was naturally drawn to football. Once I first put on a helmet I knew I loved the sport and a lot of things came natural. A lot of it I had to work really hard for. Now it’s just a part of my daily routine and I don’t think to much about it.”
In the Air Force, Birdow will focus on football and systems engineering — his major, and although he is quick to put his past accomplishments behind him, he does not mind giving them a fleeting thought.
“I had a lot of memories at AHS but the 2015 football season as a whole was so memorable,” Birdow said. “It was storybook. Definitely something I’ll never forget. It was a dreamlike experience but I know we all worked hard enough for it and we deserved it. The whole game was a blur until the field goal. I remember everything after that like it was yesterday.”
And so Birdow leaves.
With him go the legs that could stop in an instant and change course to make a defender miss and the shoulders that would lower and bulldoze anybody standing in his way.
But what remains at Altus are the memories he helped create each exciting Friday night game when he would help carry this team to victory, his legs pumping until he crossed the goal line.
He may be soaring as a Falcon now, but he will always be a Bulldog.
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.