From tragedy to triumph: the story of Buffs commit D.J. Oats

Life hasn’t been easy for one Colorado Buffaloes’ 2019 commit. Daniel “D.J.” Oats has moved all around the country over the past few years. From the humble Midwest town of Mounds Illinois — which has a population of less than 800 — to Romeoville, Illinois — a five-hour jaunt up the road — to Arlington, Texas.

It wasn’t by choice that Oats moved around so much, and it also wasn’t for chasing the football dream either. His nomadic life has a much more tragic story than that.

As a young teenager, Oats lost his mother to breast cancer in his hometown of Mounds. It was then that he moved in with his father up the road to Romeoville. A year after losing his mother, Oats’ father, too, passed away following complications due to a heart attack.

It was then that Oats moved in with his grandmother, aunt and uncle in Texas, who all helped to raise the tragedy-stricken teen. It was there where the young athlete found refuge in family and in the game of football.

Competition became Oats’ outlet. He played baseball, basketball, football and ran track throughout high school. After a breakout season on the football field, Georgia Tech, Maryland and South Florida were among a handful of schools — in addition to Colorado — that expressed interest in Oats.

“He’s got a great story, I’m sure a lot have read about him,” head coach Mel Tucker said at the Signing Day press conference. “He’s just a special, special young man.”

Oats will now call Boulder, Colorado, home for the foreseeable future, where he’ll play football for the Buffaloes in hopes of helping the team anywhere he can.

After having only been the Buffs’ coach for a little over a month, Tucker invited Oats, a three-star athlete, to campus. Oats committed to Colorado during his official visit with Tucker in mid-January.

Oats is Tucker’s first prospect from Texas, though he’s added a few more since. The senior from Grace Preparatory Academy in Arlington will join the truckload of Texas talent that’s already in Boulder. The Buffs’ roster currently boasts plenty of strength from the Lone Star State, highlighted by a pair of junior wide receivers, Laviska Shenault Jr. and K.D. Nixon, as well as Buffs’ senior quarterback Steven Montez.

Oats is quick. It’s one of the things that Tucker heard and read about Oats during the recruiting process.

“The fastest man in the country in his class, that’s what I read,” Tucker said. “This guy is extremely explosive. He’ll play defense for us. But as you’ll see, he can play offense. He’s a dynamic playmaker.”

His blazing speed was put on display last spring in Dallas where he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds. Oats’ fastest 40-yard time, however, was a 4.25 unofficially. Don’t be surprised if he sees time early in his Colorado career on special teams, where he’ll return kicks and punts for the Buffs.

During his final high school season, Oats posted impressive offensive numbers as a running back. He rushed for over 1,000 yards while scoring 14 touchdowns, adding 130 yards receiving on 11 catches and another score. Despite his imposing offensive numbers, Oats will more than likely take his speed and athleticism to the defensive side of the ball and play cornerback for Colorado.

“He’s elusive; he’s got very good long speed,” Tucker said. “He can catch the ball, he can be a wildcat guy, he can be a bubble-screen guy, he can be a deep-threat guy; and defensively, he can run with any receiver in the country.”

Oats’ has the chance to be a difference maker on both sides of the ball early in his career at Colorado. With 4.3 speed and the ability to play multiple positions, Oats’ dynamic skill set separates him from most currently on the roster.

“He’s another versatile athlete for us that can do a lot, and it’s very rare to find a guy with this type of speed,” Tucker said. “And when you have a guy with this type of speed who can actually play football, I feel like you got to recruit him and you’ve got to try to sign him. We were very fortunate that we did that.”

Oats’ superior speed and experience at running back in high school will likely lead him to success for CU. If past talent, pure speed and ability to overcome some extreme adversity is any indication, the Lone Star State standout should become an integral piece wherever Tucker decides to put him.

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