Phil Bennett is one of many former coaches of Shawn Oakman that are happy to see the former Baylor defensive end finally have a chance to move on with his life.
Oakman, who was acquitted by a local jury of sexual assault, played three seasons (2013-15) at Baylor under head coach Art Briles.
Bennett was the defensive coordinator and actually recruited Oakman while at Pittsburgh.
"I've known him since he was 16, 17 years old," Bennett said. "I know for us at Baylor, he was a worker, he was a leader, and he was a guy that put a lot of effort into what he was trying to do."
After earning a redshirt his freshman year at Penn State, Oakman transferred to Baylor following his dismissal from the Nittany Lions due to an off-field incident.
"We did due diligence and (Penn State) thought he was a good kid," Bennett said. "They thought he needed a new setting and it proved to be true."
Because Oakman already used a redshirt, he was forced to lose one year of eligibility while fulfilling the NCAA's transfer rule. The Philadelphia native made his collegiate debut as a sophomore, totaling 33 tackles and two sacks in 11 games.
Following a breakout 2014 season in which he recorded 52 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks, Oakman was named Preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and placed on multiple award watch lists. That production in 13 games placed him on the NFL's radar as a prospect to watch during his senior season.
But after registering 4.5 sacks in 2015, Oakman needed a strong performance at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, to boost his draft stock. He did just that with a couple sacks and a forced fumble to earn South Team MVP.
Oakman's road to redemption came to a temporary halt when he was arrested on the sexual assault charge two weeks prior to the April 2016 NFL Draft. He went undrafted and eventually made his return to organized football in 2018 as a member of the Indoor Football League's Bismarck Bucks.
"I truly believe with his work ethic, and what I believe to be NFL ability, those years can be made up," Bennett said. "He's a guy that stays physically fit, he didn't have many injuries when we had him at Baylor, so he doesn't have a history of being hurt."
Oakman doesn't currently have any future football plans.
"He's 26 years old," Bennett said. "He's going to have to knock the rust off, and I think he might've done that some by playing in the indoor league.
"He adapts to the game and he understands the game. I'm hopeful that somebody takes a chance on him and he gets back in the mix pretty fast."
Bennett plans on speaking with Oakman soon, and will have a simple message to give to him.
"All eyes will be on (you)," Bennett said. "Go out and show the people what kind of person you are, not just on the field, but off the field, which I know what kind of guy he is, and he's a good guy."