Tom Herman made two things clear after Texas’ narrow 28-21 victory over Tulsa: He wants his guys to have fun and celebrate wins. For true freshman Caden Sterns, that came easily and it only took one play.
On the first snap of the game, the Golden Hurricane’s sophomore quarterback Luke Skipper thought he had a receiver striding down the sideline.
Skipper fled the pocket and released the ball, but Sterns tracked it down, elevated and snatched his first career interception — on his first play as a Longhorn at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Sterns secured the ball on the Longhorn sideline right before senior defensive back Kris Boyd and a group of Texas players dogpiled on top of him in celebration.
“It was unbelievable — first home game in a big time situation, first home game of the season bouncing back from a loss,” Sterns said. “It’s unbelievable, I can’t even describe in words how good it felt to be in DKR for the first time.”
Sterns wasn’t the only freshman to record his first interception in his debut at DKR. At the tail end of the first quarter, freshman safety B.J. Foster also snagged one of Skipper’s passes.
“They are a part of, you know, one of the best recruiting classes in the country,” Herman said.
Sterns committed to Texas as a five-star recruit and the No. 2 safety in the country. The only safety ranked ahead of him was Foster, Texas’ other freshman safety.
This didn’t appear to be much of a surprise for a pair of freshmen who highlighted Texas’ 2018 recruiting class, which ranked third nationally.
For Sterns, though, the stars and numbers affiliated with his name don’t resonate as much now that he’s at Texas.
“We’re just being humble,” Sterns said. “All the dudes that came in early aren’t into the stars or the lights or anything. We just came in and wanted to work and make an impact early. Once you get to college, none of that matters.”
Sterns, like several highly-touted recruits are beginning to do, opted to forgo the spring semester of his senior year at Cibolo Steele High School in order to arrive on the 40 Acres earlier.
This afforded Sterns the opportunity to develop in the weight room and on the field several months before his Longhorn debut. That’s all it took for the freshman to win the starting safety job over veteran John Bonney, who eventually transferred to Texas Tech.
“He’s a rookie, but he’s also a veteran,” senior defensive end Breckyn Hager said. “He’s extremely athletic and aggressive. He’s got all the traits you want in a great football player. He’s continuing to get better and learn.”
That’s something Sterns prides himself on: playing like a veteran. The safety has recorded eight tackles — six solo and two assists — on top of his first interception in his first two games in the burnt orange.
His reward? Getting the opportunity to speak with the media following his performance in the Tulsa game. He displayed an all-business demeanor as media surrounded him, but make no mistake: The veteran-like rookie is enjoying the moment.
“I’m definitely having fun,” Sterns said. “Growing up, you dream for this, especially if you’re from Texas in a big football state. To make sure you’re having fun, I just realize that this is just a game. There’s a lot more bigger moments in life that football can teach you about. Once you realize that you’re somebody outside of football, it’s a lot easier to just play cool and have fun with it.”