WACO, Texas — Watching through a window as Baylor’s Shawn Oakman approaches the restaurant door—shirtless and flanked by three unleashed bulldogs—Shorty’s Pizza Shack manager Ron Brown feels a lot like the defensive end’s opponents on the football field.
And also a little scared.
Tabbed by one website as the “biggest freak” in the college game, the 6’9″, 275-pound Oakman sports a lime-green mohawk. Muscles bulge from every limb, and tattoos are graffitied across his chiseled torso.
“SAVAGE,” one of them reads.
Oakman slips on a white tank top and enters the pizza parlor as Duke, Daisy and 75-pound Dame follow closely behind, eventually curling up in a corner while he eats a calzone. Oakman takes the dogs—and often his ball python, Baloo—with him everywhere. He doesn’t need to ask if they can come inside.
“Look at him,” Brown says. “You think I’m going to tell him no?”
The scenario is a perfect illustration of the narrative surrounding Oakman, a meme-come-to-life for the athlete who’s become an Internet sensation partly for his play—but even more for his appearance.
It all started on New Year’s Day at the Cotton Bowl, when footage of Oakman towering over two Michigan State players during the pregame coin toss flashed on television sets across America. With his biceps, triceps and deltoids pushing against his taut skin and his jersey rolled up to his rib cage, exposing his tatted-up six-pack, Oakman almost looked superhuman, like a comic book villain or an outlandish WWE heel.
Before the end of the first quarter, the image had become the talk of the Internet, as thousands of people posted clever memes—pictures with funny captions—of Oakman on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms.
Baylor: tuition is 50,000 Shawn Oakman: I have 5$ Baylor: that’s perfect pic.twitter.com/4b4R2gpVhy
— Jim Fauxbaugh™ (@MGoHarbaugh) January 2, 2015