NORMAN — The thought of opting out of the bowl game never crossed Kennedy Brooks' mind.
When Oklahoma faces off against Oregon on Dec. 29 in the Valero Alamo Bowl, fans at the Alamodome in San Antonio will see a shell of the two teams. Both squads will be led by interim head coaches, and a total of nine players won't suit up after deciding to opt out.
Brooks won't be one of those players.
After choosing to sit out last season due to COVID-19 concerns, the redshirt junior running back doesn't plan on missing any opportunities to take to the field.
"I was raised to just think that if you're going to start something, finish it," Brooks said. "I never thought about it. Having another chance to play this game is a blessing. Me opting out last year, I missed it. So I ain't trying to opt-out and miss more games."
Brooks made his stance on playing in the bowl game clear before he even knew the opponent.
After suffering a 37-33 loss to Oklahoma State on Nov. 27 to close out the regular season, the veteran running back asserted his desire to play in the postseason. He also expressed his faith that his teammates would have the same intention.
"I don't expect none of us to (opt-out)," Brooks said in the postgame interview. "We love each other, and we love this game too much. If a player opts out, anybody around the country, that's crazy... I'm going to stick it out regardless.
"I hope everybody stays and everybody plays this last game because it's going to be a special one."
A lot has changed in the 21 days since Brooks made those remarks, though.
OU saw Lincoln Riley bolt for the head coaching gig at USC. It watched four players enter the transfer portal. It brought in Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables as its next head coach. And it saw four players opt out of the Alamo Bowl.
Redshirt senior defensive lineman Isaiah Thomas, redshirt junior linebacker Nik Bonitto, senior defensive lineman Perrion Winfrey and redshirt junior linebacker Brian Asamoah all decided to opt out of the contest and declare for the 2022 NFL Draft.
Brooks has been a constant for the Sooners in a time of change, which shouldn't come as a surprise.
The Mansfield, Texas, native has been Mr. Reliable since he arrived in Norman in 2017. He has surpassed 1,000 rushing yards in all three campaigns with the Sooners, and he boasts a career-high 1,111 rushing yards this season.
Brooks' availability for the Alamo Bowl is a virtual lock, but the real question is whether this will be the last time he suits up for the Sooners. While he's eligible to return next season, Brooks isn't quite ready to announce his decision.
"I'll address it after the game," Brooks said. "My focus is just to try to beat Oregon and play this game, so that's what I'm focused on right now."
In the event a coach voluntarily terminates his contract or takes another position in college football other than a head coach position, said coach must pay OU a previously agreed-upon sum of money.
In addition to Riley, whose buyout is $4.5 million, several other coaches owe the university a buyout sum, according to documents obtained by The Oklahoman in an open-records request.
Former OU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch owes the university a buyout of $1,080,000 after following Riley to USC. This is also the case for former cornerbacks coach Roy Manning and sports performance director Bennie Wylie. They must pay OU $141,000 and $129,000, respectively.
Former OU outside receivers coach Dennis Simmons also followed Riley to USC, although his contract expired on March 1, 2021. It's unclear if he'll have to pay his buyout fee of $153,000.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OU football: Why Kennedy Brooks isn't opting out of the Alamo Bowl