What if I told you that you were about to be drafted? At 6’9, 280 lbs, you’re one of the most highly touted prospects ever. Your combination of size and speed makes you an extremely intimidating force on the football field. You’re finishing up your senior season at Baylor and getting ready for the NFL draft when your whole life changes. One simple lie would wipe your name off of draft boards, send you to jail, and cost you millions. This is the untold story of Shawn Oakman, the best NFL player there never was.
Shawn Michael Oakman was born on April 7, 1992, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father was out of the picture and his mother battled with drug abuse, so he and his siblings were on their own. Shawn was removed from his mother’s care when he moved in with his aunt and uncle at just ten years old. Looking to cope with these problems, Oakman picked up sports at an early age. He played both football and basketball at Penn Wood High School, and his excellence on the football field grabbed the attention of Penn State. A four-star recruit, his size was almost unheard of for a kid his age. However, the biggest knock on him was his lack of hustle and discipline, which would come back to haunt him in his later years.
Oakman was forced to redshirt his freshman year as a Nittany Lion. He would actually never see the field with Penn State, as he couldn’t stay out of trouble. After running out of money on his meal card, Oakman tried to steal a sandwich from the school cafeteria. He was noticed by a clerk, and he pushed her against a wall when he tried to escape. He received charges of harassment, retail theft, and disorderly conduct. This was during the Jerry Sandusky scandal, so all players were on a short leash, to begin with. For Head Coach Bill O’Brien, this was the last straw. He expelled the star pass rusher from the football program. But as it turns out, this expulsion would benefit Oakman.
Shawn still loved to play football. In fact, he needed football. He knew he needed to find a school that would let him play. He got a fresh start at Baylor University, and this time, he wouldn’t mess it up. NCAA transfer guidelines ruled Oakman ineligible in his first year, but he stayed in great shape to prepare for next season. He didn’t get much work as a sophomore, but he had an insane junior year. Finally a starter, he gained the attention of pro scouts across the nation with 11 sacks, four forced fumbles, and 19 tackles for a loss. Now projected to be a first-round draft pick, Oakman looked to prove that he could continue this outstanding play. He wasn’t as productive, but he still made a huge impact on a Bears team that won the Cotton Bowl. With his college career over, it was now time to focus on the NFL.
Going into the combine, two of the biggest questions surrounding Shawn were his motor and his consistency. But with a bench press of 23 reps and a 40-yard dash under five seconds, teams couldn’t resist. He was in consideration for the number one overall pick. However, this was all about to end. His whole life was going to change and not in a good way.
On April 13, 2016-15 days before the draft-Oakman was accused of sexual assault by a Baylor student he had a previous relationship with. He was charged with a second-degree felony. He spent a few nights in jail before he was bailed out by his agent. The case wouldn’t go to trial for another three years (it was delayed five times), but for Oakman, the impact was already felt. His name was wiped off of every NFL draft board. He lost out on millions and never got to live out his dream. He bounced around a few startup football leagues-the American Arena League, the Champions Indoor League, and the Spring League-but never found a home in any of them. However, on February 26, 2019, Oakman’s life would change once again. This one had a better outcome. The trial finally began. When the three days concluded, the jury found Oakman innocent because there was a lack of incriminating evidence. He rejoiced. Now free of charges, he looked forward to getting a second chance at an NFL career.
In the days since Oakman has trained both in the weight room and on the football field in an attempt to get back to where he wants to be. On October 19, 2019, he was drafted by the Los Angeles Wildcats on the XFL, a league closely followed by NFL teams looking to fill their rosters. Oakman will try to prove that he really does belong in the NFL, a league he should have been in in the first place. It’s crazy how much Shawn’s life has changed in the past few years. It’s even crazier that it was all because of one little lie. Hopefully, he’ll get another chance to play the game he loves at the pro level.