Claremore, Okla. — "Is there anything else I'm missing?"
I often ask a variant of that question in an interview. Usually, I'll phrase it "If I knew you better, what would you want me to ask you?" or "What would you like people to know about you?" Those two elicit better responses.
However, when Reggie Skinner and I were sitting in the air-conditioned mancave sectioned off from his Vinita home Sunday, I asked, "Is there anything else I'm missing?"
"There's a lot of things that's missing," Skinner replied matter-of-factly. "I was missing from my son's life for a little bit because of my troubles."
Skinner, 43, played running back for the Oklahoma Sooners from 1997 to 1999. His son, 17-year-old Quentin Skinner, plays wide receiver and defensive back for Claremore High School.
The younger Skinner headlines an exciting class of Zebra football seniors; Skinner has a six-foot-four frame and boasts a 3.0+ GPA to boot. He's caught the attention of Division I schools like the University of Missouri-Columbia (Mizzou) and the University of Kansas. He recently turned the head of former OU running back and current Washington Redskin Adrian Peterson at his June camp in Norman.
"He was just wondering, 'Who are you? I've never heard of you and you've surprised me,'" Skinner said.
Skinner said he's working to improve many facets of his game, including strength (he last weighed in at 175 pounds). He wants to lead by example on the field. But he's still very much a sleeper prospect.
"The state of Oklahoma is one of the most underrated states," Skinner said. "In all athletic sports."
There's a lot more than football to Skinner, though. He plans to study kinesiology in college. The movement of the body interests him. He even plans to take AP Biology during his senior year, which goes above and beyond the academic requirement to graduate.
Right now, however, the prize is a Division I offer. His father inspired him to chase that dream.
"We’re just alike. We get along so well," Quentin Skinner said. "I don’t think we’ve ever had one fight in our whole life. And he loves me being an athlete, but he’s also said ‘Do what you want to do. You have your own decisions of being a man. You can do what you want to do, athlete or not an athlete.'"
Reggie Skinner always dreamed of playing at OU.
"It’s a family and it’s a bond you go into at the University of Oklahoma," Skinner said. "We actually went down to the Red and White game. Open arms. How everyone treats you when they welcome you in."
After an illustrious high school career at White Oak, Skinner got his chance.
However, he got into legal trouble, a habit dating back to his high school days.
"That’s where I was running with the wrong crew," Skinner said. "Once upon a time, before OU. I steered away from it, and started hanging back out with the wrong people. Doing the wrong things. You live and learn. And I’ve learned the hard way. But that’s actually one thing I can take, I’ve learned from that and I’ve moved on."
Things came to a head in 2003, when Skinner was convicted of conspiracy to commit robbery. He served more than two years in prison. That's when he says he realized he owed it to his family to set the right example.
"I just encourage [Quentin] on that every day. Every day. Do not let none of this go to your head," Skinner said. "Stay grounded. His mother and his grandmother...they have been a great, great supporting family in his life as far as being there and helping the situation when I was absent."
"Quentin’s a great child, a great son," Reggie Skinner said. "To any way that I was raised or was living, nothing like that. Nothing like that.
"This is his moment, his time."
Quentin Skinner, preparing for weekend visits to KU and Mizzou, grabs me before I leave Claremore High School's football stadium. He asks me to make sure I include in my story that he couldn't have made this much progress without his teammates, coaches, and family.
"This is one last ride with the people I’ve always grown up with and loved and played the game I love with," Skinner said of his senior year. "I’m looking for it all...Whatever comes with it, comes with it. I’ll be happy at the end of it, hopefully."