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Shawn Oakman’s story: How top NFL prospect went from ‘undraftable,’ fighting to clear his name, to CFL champ

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When the ultimate whistle blew at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan, Nov. 20, Shawn Oakman couldn’t consider he was a champion. 

His Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 24-23, to win the Grey Cup, the CFL’s corresponding to the NFL’s Super Bowl. 

“It smacked me right within the face,” Oakman told Fox News Digital in a recent interview. “I actually didn’t get like that week to digest it. I got that night.”

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Toronto Argonauts defensive end Shawn Oakman runs onto the sphere.
(Toronto Argonauts)

Oakman had one sack and two tackles within the victory, and each championship won deserves an after-party. That was Oakman’s intent when he got back to his hotel room, still holding the Grey Cup. 

But Oakman didn’t make it out that night with the remainder of his Argonauts teammates. 

“Showered, hopped within the bed for like five minutes simply to get my mind right, but I began getting cold sweats,” he recalled. “Began getting hot sweats. Then, next thing , all night I’m throwing up. Grey Cup champion. Can’t exit and party. That was just about the belief of you possibly can’t do what you used to anymore. Sit you’re a– down. Yeah, you won but sit you’re a– down.”

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At 30 years old, Oakman’s partying days are at a minimum, but this was a special day. Yet, Oakman saw that moment right after one in all the largest moments of his life, personally and professionally, as an indication from God. 

“I feel it was just the detox of life and accomplishing something that perhaps I believed, or the world thought, that I’d never be or get there ever again,” he said. 

To grasp what Oakman means by that, you have got to know what he’s been through to get to this moment. 

***

Oakman was born in Philadelphia and was a standout football and basketball star at Penn Wood High School in Lansdowne. He eventually committed to Penn State to play football for the Nittany Lions, but an incident in February 2012 had him dismissed for violating team rules. 

Oakman transferred to Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and that’s where he’d be the centerpiece for top-of-the-line sports memes of all-time.

“I get it day-after-day,” he said when asked if he still sees or hears from others about his fabled Jumbotron picture at AT&T Stadium throughout the Cotton Bowl in 2015. 

Oakman stands at a large 6-foot-9 and 290 kilos, which is an intimidating sight to see across a line of scrimmage on any field. Oakman also had a singular way of wearing his Baylor jersey in college, using his pads to chop off the length of his jersey to disclose his six-pack underneath. 

That’s what Twitter and plenty of other social media platforms saw when Oakman’s Jumbotron image hit the web. 

When individuals who didn’t follow the Baylor Bears looked up No. 2 to see who he was, the stats showed exactly what you’d expected for somebody his size: 11 sacks, 52 total tackles, 4 forced fumbles and two recoveries over 13 games. 

Oakman’s superior length and agility during his junior season in 2014 made him an intriguing NFL Draft prospect. Yet, he returned to Waco for his senior season as an alternative of declaring for the draft. He said the choice was an “easy” one. 

“Me personally, I don’t think I used to be able to go play within the NFL and be as productive as I believed I could possibly be,” he said. “Perhaps it was immaturity, possibly it was a insecurity.”

Oakman was considered by many entering his senior 12 months to be a first-round prospect, with Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated saying prior to the season that Oakman could possibly be the primary overall pick that 12 months. 

Not only did Oakman underperform with 4.5 sacks and 43 tackles over 12 games, his decision to return to high school eventually led to an incident that cost him his NFL dream.

***

On April 13, 2016, Oakman was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a lady, 22 on the time, who he went home with on April 3 following an evening out at a Waco local bar, Scruffy Murphy’s. 

The accuser said she texted Oakman to inform him she was on the bar. Nevertheless, she doesn’t remember sending the text because she had an excessive amount of to drink. She does remember going back to Oakman’s duplex and said he was grabbing her arm to stop her from falling. 

She couldn’t remember much of what happened next but said Oakman threw her face-down on his bed and sexually assaulted her. 

A grand jury indicted Oakman on charges of second-degree felony sexual assault July 20, 2016. 

The NFL Draft, which Oakman declared for, was two weeks later. 

He was now “undraftable,” an NFC executive told NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein on the time. The outcomes proved that when no team picked him up, and he wasn’t signed as an undrafted free agent. 

Baylor Bears defensive end Shawn Oakman before the 2015 Russell Athletic Bowl against the North Carolina Tar Heels at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando, Fla.

Baylor Bears defensive end Shawn Oakman before the 2015 Russell Athletic Bowl against the North Carolina Tar Heels on the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando, Fla.
(Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“I used to be naive like all the best way up until the draft,” Oakman said. “Watching everybody get picked in 2016, I used to be naive. I used to be definitely living in a false sense of reality considering I talked to the suitable aides, they’re going to do their job. The lawyers are going to do their job, but that wasn’t the case. Annually went by, once two years went by, once people began falling away from you and leaving you behind and things of that nature, you get a grip on life real quick.”

Oakman thought he was going to be fighting for a roster spot within the NFL. As an alternative, he began fighting to clear his name. 

As he mentioned, it was years before Oakman could get a trial. He was purported to be living out his football dream at this point. As an alternative, it was time to get a daily job. 

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“My first job I used to be packaging diapers in a box,” he said. “I used to be working at a diaper factory. I couldn’t keep a job. Probably the longest job I had was a month or two months long. It just wasn’t for me.”

While continuing to undergo the legal process, as slow because it was, Oakman relied on consistency through football to maintain him going. And that meant playing anywhere. 

“I jumped to Bismark, North Dakota,” Oakman said, remembering his time playing for the Bismark Bucks within the Champions Indoor League in 2018. “Simply to not go crazy attempting to work anyone’s regular job. You continue to go to Bismark, North Dakota, with nothing. They paying you $200 a game. I don’t know what you’re purported to do with that, but I don’t got no family in North Dakota. I got here out with me and three dogs. It wasn’t easy and anything could’ve happened on the market. It was a risk simply to go on the market.”

Oakman couldn’t turn his back on football, though. It’s a game he fell in love with as a child, and he knew he was adequate to make it. He just needed to win his case. 

On Feb. 28, 2019, he did just that.

A 3-day trial found Oakman not guilty, and the decision sent Oakman into tears. 

“I did it,” Oakman said when asked what he was considering in that moment. “Don’t matter what people can say. I didn’t lose. I won. I can have lost tangible things, money and all that. But in my core and my soul in my heart, I won. I beat the method. I didn’t fold, I didn’t rumble. I’m not who they are saying I’m, and endlessly I’m in a position to recreate who I’m. I won’t be labeled as such. Some people still will, but that’s on them.”

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Oakman’s attorney, Allen Bennett, pointed to the evidence within the case, which had the accuser deleting three text messages from her phone between her and Oakman that saw her reach out to him first. Bennett also said the “scientific evidence was inconsistent with what she told the nurse” at Windfall Hospital where she was admitted following the incident.

Oakman admitted then that he did have sex with the accuser, and he did take her to his home that night.

Today, he continues to take accountability for what transpired.

Annually went by, once two years went by, once people began falling away from you and leaving you behind and things of that nature, you get a grip on life real quick

— Shawn Oakman

“I did all those things that put me within the position where I could lose my dream,” he said. “So, first, you bought to take accountability for what you probably did. Once you might be in a position to take accountability for what you probably did, there’s nothing else to waver.”

His name was cleared, but what about that NFL dream? Oakman was about to show 27 and his latest film was from arena leagues. 

It didn’t matter. He desired to play within the NFL and was going to do whatever it took to accomplish that. 

With the trial over and Oakman’s name restored, it was back to football. Yet, Oakman knew the NFL wasn’t just going to come back calling. 

So Oakman was with the Austin Generals in The Spring League in April 2019 followed by the West Virginia Roughriders in June 2019 with the American Arena League. 

Then, the revamped XFL got here calling with the Los Angeles Wildcats signing Oakman in January 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the league April 10, 2020, and Oakman was once more left to work out his next step. 

“It’s staying focused. It’s having a goal and a destination that no one can deny,” he said. “Once I beat my case, I said I’m going to play football. You return to it. I’m going to play football. It didn’t matter where I used to be going to play football, but God gave me the chance to go play football.

The CFL has produced solid NFL contributors over time, and when the Toronto Argonauts got here calling, Oakman once more packed his thing. 

“I speak highly of [Argonauts GM] Michael “Pinball” Clemons,” Oakman said. “He told me the opposite day that he tried to not view his players as objects. He tried to view them as people. That’s one in all the largest things which you could get out of a corporation.”

Shawn Oakman of the Toronto Argonauts on the sideline during a game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium July 24, 2022, in Regina, Canada.

Shawn Oakman of the Toronto Argonauts on the sideline during a game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium July 24, 2022, in Regina, Canada.
(Brent Just/Getty Images)

Clemons’ belief in Oakman worked out for his team. Oakman is a two-time All-Star with the Argonauts, leading Toronto in sacks the past two seasons, including nine this 12 months. 

His production was a key piece of the Argonauts puzzle in capturing the 109th Grey Cup, a moment Oakman will always remember for a lot of reasons. 

Yes, it’s his first skilled championship. But, more importantly, it’s a trophy that he didn’t think he’d ever grasp.

“At any given moment, I could’ve went the opposite route,” he said candidly. “I could’ve lashed out, I could’ve sold drugs. I didn’t must be on this path. I could’ve been on some other path besides the one I’m on. That was a continuing selection. They need you to be a monster. They need you to do that in order that they could have every reason to say, ‘Oh, he’s who we are saying he was.’ That was kinda like my driving force, my driving motivation. I at all times knew who I used to be. There wasn’t no one who could tell me who I’m.”

Oakman knows he “lost quite a bit,” but he says he’s “gaining so rather more” nowadays. He has a different perspective on football and life generally, one which is summed up in a continuing state of gratitude. 

The NFL dream? It’s never faded.

Toronto Argonauts defensive end Shawn Oakman gets emotional while holding the Canadian Football League's Grey Cup. 

Toronto Argonauts defensive end Shawn Oakman gets emotional while holding the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup. 
(Toronto Argonauts)

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“After all,” he replied quickly. “I just don’t understand who wouldn’t desire a dog. A natural leader. It really baffles me. They see what I bring to the table each and day-after-day. It’s not about who’s going to take a likelihood on me. It’s about me making essentially the most out of my opportunity.

“I’m grateful, and I’m thankful for doing what I really like and it provides for me and my family. So I can’t complain. I’m blessed.”

Scott Thompson is a sports author for Fox News Digital.

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