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“He’s just happy,” Rose Bowl serving as homecoming for Sooner star

PASADENA, Calif. - The Sooners will celebrate the new year by taking on the Georgia Bulldogs on Monday in the Rose Bowl.

While most members of the team are far from home, one Sooner couldn't be happier about OU's bowl destination.

Caleb Kelly grew up in Fresno, California, which is a little over three hours away from where his team will attempt to win their way into the national championship game.

"It's awesome. I came as a fan, as a recruit, and now I get to be here as a player and be in there," Kelly said. "And it's funny because it's happened all year playing in Dallas Cowboy Stadium, I went there when I was in 8th grade, just going all around really to these places that you see on TV and now you're on TV doing it, it's crazy."

Teammates say they couldn't help but notice Kelly's excitement about coming home.

"He's just happy. That's one thing, he's happy he's going to represent. That's the way he is. He's going to represent where he's from, his hometown. He's here, and he's going to represent Oklahoma with pride. That's just how he is," Emmanuel Beal said.

Although many players' families are able to attend a few games throughout the season, Kelly says his whole family hasn't been able to watch him play in person since high school.

"The last time that they have seen me play together in my whole family at the same time, I was a senior in high school and so now, two years removed, it's going to be awesome to have them all there. I can look up in one section and see them all just sitting there and just, I don't know, it's going to be crazy. I'm a kid from right up north a little ways and I drove down myself and so I have my whole family here and nobody came, went to Oklahoma with me, I went by myself. My girlfriend's even here too because she's still in Fresno, she's going to go to Nebraska later, but just having everybody really come down at the same time is going to be awesome," he said.

Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops says that Kelly deserves to be able to share this special experience with those he loves.

"He's a very intelligent, thoughtful person. His mother has done an incredible job raising him. He was different. He was different than some of the other kids. Fresno is a tough area. There's a lot of challenges coming out of Fresno. Caleb was, you know, you're going to go on one side of the tracks or the other, and he always stayed on this side of the tracks and never wavered in his, I think it's commitment to his mother to be successful in whatever he does. I mean, that's the thing that I really respect about him. And football's important, but he's way deeper than that, too. I think he's got a bright future in whatever happens," Stoops said.

While there aren't very many Sooners from California, the Rose Bowl will serve as a different sort of homecoming for one running back.

Trey Sermon, a freshman running back for the Sooners, is from Marietta, Georgia.

Instead of traveling an hour and a half away to attend the University of Georgia, the 4-star recruit decided to sign with the University of Oklahoma.

While his career with the Sooners is just getting started, teammates say pride is still on the line.

"I just know he's got some friends on the team, so no like secret intel, but he's excited to play the game. Obviously being from Georgia, he's got some friends on the team and he's a great running back and I'm happy to have him on this side of the ball.

Sermon has played in all 13 games this season and scored five rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns.