Shawn Oakman once tried to steal a sandwich because he was hungry. That got him kicked out of a Penn State football program already shaken by scandal.
Now, Oakman is hungry for a fresh start at Baylor.
In a lengthy interview with CBSPhilly.com, the 6-foot-9, 260-pound defensive end says he was singled out by new Penn State coach Bill O’Brien, but that ultimately he is to blame for his mistakes.
“I did everything wrong, and there is no one in but me,” Oakman told Joseph Santoliquito. “I did what I did and it obviously got me kicked off the team.”
Oakman said he understands O’Brien’s motivations for kicking him off the team, considering the scrutiny the new coaching staff was under. Penn State is still embroiled in a scandal involving child sexual abuse that led to the dismissal of legendary coach Joe Paterno, who died soon after.
“I do feel I was used as an example, though,” Oakman said. “I don’t understand how you can let a player go like that, I was a redshirt freshman with no sense of direction who was struggling and had legal issues. You let him to the wolves with no help?
“If I was a coach, I do see all of the reasons why Coach O’Brien let me go like that. I just wanted a second chance to play football for Penn State.”
Oakman said two other current players were also caught stealing from the same campus convenience store and their punishment was extra running in the morning. O’Brien was not quoted in the story.
However, Oakman said O’Brien told him he already had two strikes on him and the next would be his last. Oakman’s first strike was for missing a class. His second strike came when he was identified as a participant in the robbery of a pizza delivery man.
Oakman, who says he was falsely accused, spoke to police and was never charged.
Still, Oakman had gained a reputation for finding trouble. He believes he would have received a community service punishment for stealing the sandwich had he been a normal student and not a football player.
Oakman also says grabbing the wrist of the student cashier in the incident last March only made matters worse for himself.
Oakman’s meal card was out of points, which is why he stuffed the $7 sandwich in his pocket rather than pay for it. Still, he gave the meal card to the cashier and when another employee accused him of theft, he grabbed the cashier’s wrist to get the card back.
The cashier began yelling and Oakman ran out of the store, leaving the sandwich behind.
But Oakman is no longer running from his mistakes. On his own, he wrote a letter apologizing to his Penn State teammates and left a copy in every locker. He was charged with a misdemeanor and fined.
He said he cried the day he left Penn State for good, but is out to prove he can turn his life around after signing a letter of intent with Baylor on July 2. He will have to sit out a year from playing because of transfer rules, but Oakman knows that’s part of the rebuilding process.
“I looked at the Penn State football team as my family,” Oakman said. “We all struggled up there to eat. There were guys who gave me food when I was hungry. I’m serious. But I’m hungry again in another way. Baylor isn’t another chance, it’s my last chance.”