Faith, work ethic guide Wren on unlikely journey

Steve Helwick

Erick Wren is in the midst of his second season as the starting center for Oklahoma, one of college football’s perennial powerhouses. But the collegiate journey didn’t start in Norman, Oklahoma for the senior center.

Wren was not highly recruited coming out of Horn High School in Mesquite, Texas. The offensive lineman settled to continue his football career 1,200 miles away from home at Arizona Western College. There, Wren experienced immediate playing time at guard before converting to center in his second season.

When seeking to play at the Division I level after leaving Arizona Western, Wren was recruited by a bevy of FCS colleges, but the Sooners’ offer to acquire Wren as a preferred walk-on stood above the rest.

“It was truly a miracle from God,” Wren said. “I thought my talent was good enough to play at the D-I level. (My parents) agreed, and they started searching for schools and asked me if I wanted to go to Oklahoma. I didn’t care where I started at. I didn’t care if I’d be tenth string or second string — I just wanted to come to Oklahoma.”

Upon arriving in Norman, Wren spent plenty of time developing behind former All-Big 12 center Ty Darlington, who taught him the necessary skills to thrive on an offensive line of a blue-blood program.

“He worked with me, we watched film, and he took me under his wing,” Wren said. “He helped me be a smarter football player. He helped me see things I wasn’t able to see such as coverages and blitzes and different types of defensive packages. He guided me to where I’m at today.”

After Darlington’s graduation, Wren finally shed his reserve status and earned his first start at Oklahoma last season in a road victory against TCU. Prior to the game, then-head coach Bob Stoops called his Sooners in for a team meeting, one that would alter the course of Wren’s life.

While discussing preparation for the TCU game, Stoops surprised Wren by announcing that he would be placed on scholarship in front of the entire team. Following the announcement, Wren was immediately swarmed by his ecstatic teammates in the meeting room.

“Everything was normal until he said, ‘Erick, you’re on scholarship,’” Wren said. “It was just a relief, like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. It was an indescribable feeling, a once-in-a-lifetime moment.”

Work ethic has been a crucial factor in the progression of the former junior college standout. The teammate that stands behind Wren on every snap shares a similar journey. The Sooners’ redshirt senior quarterback Baker Mayfield also began as a former walk-on before receiving a scholarship from Oklahoma, and he understands the factors that propelled Wren from a walk-on to one of the team’s most integral contributors.

“I think Erick’s always had confidence in himself, otherwise he wouldn’t have chosen to walk-on at a school like Oklahoma,” Mayfield said. “But his work ethic has been the biggest thing I’ve seen from him in terms of taking on the leadership role. He really made a huge jump in the offseason in that area. He was ‘that’ guy for the offensive line, and it was very apparent that he was setting the tone both vocally and by example.”

To Wren, the most important factor in guiding him through this journey is his faith. A devout Christian, Wren was raised in a family of pastors. His father, grandfather, and uncle all held such positions, strengthening Wren’s relationship with God along the way.

“Most of all, I give my honor to God,” Wren said. “Nothing gets done without Him, and He’s put people in my life to help me get to where I am.”