FRISCO, Texas — Oklahoma State receivers play a unique game that insures their drops are kept to a minimum every day.
If an OSU player drops a pass in practice, he assumes the role of “zookeeper.” All dropped passes are totaled and multiplied by 10. The last person with a drop is required to do the number of push-ups required by the drops.
“It’s gotten up as high as 130 before,” said OSU wide receiver James Washington, the leader of the nation’s top receiving corps. “It keeps that notion in the back of your head that you’ve got to focus.”
Washington said that his determination to avoid “the zookeeper” label explains why his drops are at a minimum.
The game is a creation of OSU receivers coach Kasey Dunn, who pushes his players to make every catch in practice.
“It kind of gets into your head that you can’t drop a pass, and starts that pressure in practice,” said Washington.
One of the reasons for this group’s solid production is because of competition at practice. Their drops in games have been limited because of the game. Washington hasn’t been the final zookeeper since his sophomore season.
“There’s lots of competitiveness in the room,” Washington said. “Everybody wants the starting position. My spot can get taken [that] goes for anyone else. If you let up any slack, you can easily be replaced.”
Austin Parker and Tyrell Alexander have been tagged as the zookeeper the most in OSU’s recent practices.
“They have gotten tired of doing push-ups so they have been working on their catches,” Washington said.
The Cowboys once required players dropping passes to bring sunflower seeds for the rest of the receivers. But that got kind of expensive. Eventually, Dunn found a new game to play with even higher stakes.
OSU quarterback Mason Rudolph said the game has helped boost the competitiveness of his receivers.
“You are constantly hearing the ‘zookeeper’ term screamed out,” Rudolph said. “They aren’t anxious to make a mistake. They want to do the best they can every day.”