DALLAS - The last thing Calvin Barnett wanted to do upon arriving at Oklahoma State last year was something he'd never done before.
"It was my first legit workout, and I'd never thrown up or anything like that from sports before," Barnett said. "I'm talking about baseball when I was younger. Soccer. Football. Every sport I'd ever played, I'd never thrown up. But that first day - it was a Friday - we did a full body workout after we ran and I threw up as soon as the workout was over."
He'd just made it to campus after two years at Navarro College, in Corsicana, Texas. He was second-team All-America in 2011, two years after he'd been considered the best high school player in Oklahoma and one of the best defensive linemen the nation.
At that very moment, Barnett knew none of his teammates were impressed by any of that.
"They were all like, 'Welcome to the Big 12,'" Barnett said.
His reality was the reality so many other junior college players get to know when they reach the Division I level.
"There are people who have been around and at the end of the day, you come in from junior college and, technically, you're already a grown man," Barnett said. "You're a young man, but you come in 20, 21 years old and you don't have time to play around. You know the game. You don't know the speed at this level, but you don't get to make many mistakes.
"It's very new and it's hard to adjust, but at the same time, people expect you to adjust due to your age. You're not a freshman."
Barnett ended up the Big 12's defensive newcomer of the year and the league coaches voted him first-team all-conference. The media included Barnett on their preseason all-conference team last week.
West Virginia would be fortunate if any, many or all of the nine junior college recruits it signed in the 2013 recruiting class are as successful.
"Coming from junior college, I give out a lot of advice to old teammates who are going to Division I and younger players I know who are going to a junior college, and the best thing I can tell them is work hard," the 6-foot-2, 300-pound Barnett said. "If you work hard and do everything right and you don't get in trouble, if you run hard and lift hard and take advantage of the opportunity, that's the best thing you can do.
"Now, if the dominoes fall your way and you're athletically gifted, more power to you, but if you try to do everything right, you can't go wrong."
It is perhaps more complicated than that. TCU's Jason Verrett is arguably the best cornerback in the Big 12, and maybe even the nation. Yet four years ago, he was basically an unrecruited high school senior relegated to Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College.
He redshirted in 2009 and moved from slot receiver to cornerback before the 2010 season.
It worked wonders and Verrett started his first Division I game in 2011 - against Baylor and eventual Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III. He picked apart the Horned Frogs, including Verrett, and passed for 414 yards and six touchdowns.
Verrett legitimately wanted to quit after the game.
"I was heartbroken," he said.
He met with Coach Gary Patterson, who had similar conversations with similar players before.
"The biggest thing was I told him what was going to happen," Patterson said. "It's one thing to be real surprised, but I said, 'Look, if you don't start doing what you need to do, this is what's going to happen. This is the kind of opponent we're going to play against at this level.'"
Patterson had Verrett on the bench the next game, but started him nine other times and saw Verrett named honorable mention all-Mountain West. He'll probably see Verrett drafted early in April's draft.
"I had to learn quickly, but one reason I went to junior college was I wanted that Division I shot," Verrett said. "Once you get that acceptance, you can't go in there like a high school kid. You've got to go in with a lot of maturity."