Things had never been difficult in football for tight end Taylor McNamara. He had always succeeded whenever he tried something.
He had his choice of colleges before picking Oklahoma and enrolling early as part of the 2012 class. He figured things would come as easily in Norman as it had in San Diego.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. McNamara didn't stand out in his first spring at OU, but because of lack of depth at the spot, he was given a chance.
A shoulder injury ended his freshman season two games into the campaign, and he was able to get a medical hardship for a redshirt season.
A second chance to make a first impression. It might have taken more than 12 games, but McNamara made his first impression with a first-down reception against Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Now he's using that momentum in the spring.
"Taylor is really coming on more," coach Bob Stoops said. "He caught a nice ball in the bowl game. There's just not a lot of Jermaine Greshams running around there. You have to have the right people and they have to be experienced."
Just because McNamara is 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds didn't mean his number was going to be called. It was something he had to learn the hard way. A process that had him second-guessing if OU was indeed the right call for him.
"Yeah, certainly," McNamara said. "I was young at the time, and you want to blame it on other outside things. As I've matured, I've learned anywhere you go, if you're one of the best players, you're going to play."
McNamara put in the work during his redshirt season even if the results never showed up in the stat book. The whole year he worked on getting himself better instead of putting the blame somewhere else or looking at what the other guys were doing. He had to make the change.
When he got told by the coaches he was going to become a bigger part of the offense, he wasn't afraid to admit how excited he was.
"I don't want to sit here my whole career," McNamara said. "I want to make an impact. I definitely think I've had a good offseason."
The offseason at tight end took a dramatic turn when Blake Bell decided to move to the position from quarterback. McNamara looked like he was going to be the guy for 2014, but now he'll have to compete with Bell for playing time.
But that's not the way he's looking at it.
"We're working as a group. It's not me vs. Blake or me vs. the other guys. We all want to be out there. I think they want to use as many as they can. Coach Jay Boulware always says if we can do both – if we can run and block – he wants to get as many on the field as possible."
For McNamara, it's all about improving. Improving as a blocker, improving as a playmaker. Anything he needs to do to make sure 2014 is what he wants it to be.
"They want us to be physical blockers – that's half the battle," McNamara said. "That and being playmakers. I think I'm improving with my blocking. Heck, if I'm not getting better, then I'm getting worse. But no, things are going well."