Brianna HowardPhoto Provided

Brianna Howard sporting her Choctaw heritage and Sooner spirit on the sidelines of an OU basketball game.

Sooner spirit and Choctaw pride shine on the field at OU

By Christian Chaney
July 2, 2024

On game day in Norman, Oklahoma, tribal member Brianna Howard can be found proudly representing the Sooners and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

Brianna is the 19-year-old daughter of Matt and Nakisha Howard of Tuttle, Oklahoma.

She is the granddaughter of Sherman Ward of Talihina, Oklahoma, and the late Gloria Ward.

Brianna is a sophomore at the University of Oklahoma with a GPA of 3.77.

She is a member of the OU American Indian Student Association (AISA) and the Alpha Lambda Delta National Honor Society.

Brianna has recently been accepted into the Education program and plans to become a first-grade teacher after graduation.

Since the age of five, Brianna dreamed of being part of the action at the OU sporting events – leading the Schooner onto the field, helping with the ponies and being involved in the cannon firing.

Growing up, she was a dedicated Sooner fan and always took a picture by the Schooner and with the RUF/NEKS and Lil’ Sis at every game.

Now, she has made those dreams a reality.

Since its establishment in 1915, the long-standing RUF/NEK program has embodied tradition and excellence in college sports.

In 1973, the Lil’ Sis program was introduced to enhance the spirit squad further.

The program’s goal is to support OU athletic teams, engage with fans and generate crowd enthusiasm.

On the field, the program is in charge of the famous Sooner Schooner, shotguns and paddle celebrations after an OU touchdown.

Off the field, the RUF/NEK and Lil’ Sis act as ambassadors for the university, attending various charitable, civic and alumni events.

Before the school year starts, there is a strict interview and try-out process to become a RUF/NEK or Lil’ Sis.

Brianna is currently the only active member of the RUF/NEKS and Lil’ Sis representing the Choctaw Nation.

Her grandfather, Sherman Ward, bought her a Choctaw Nation patch, and she was eager to wear it on her dress to showcase her heritage.

She wanted to demonstrate what it means to her and to other Native Americans, to show them that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to.

“I really wanted to show this is who I am, and where I am from. I wanted to show other Natives that they can do whatever they set their minds to.”

Brianna takes great pride in wearing the Choctaw Nation’s seal on her dress at every OU sporting event.

One of the most memorable experiences from her first year as a RUF/NEK Lil’ Sis was running out onto the field for the first time after a touchdown.

She recalls feeling nervous at first, but once she stepped onto the field behind the Schooner, the crowd’s cheers faded, and everything went silent, leaving her in awe of being a part of such a moment.

She remembers thinking, “Wow, there are so many people here supporting OU, and I get to be a part of it. This is amazing.”

As she ran back into the tunnel, she couldn’t wait to experience that feeling again.

Brianna won the First Year Member Award during the OU sports banquet.

Brianna would like to express her gratitude to the Choctaw Nation for their support in her pursuit of higher education.

She has received scholarship funds, clothing and technology allowances, which have been instrumental in helping her advance her education.

Brianna believes that without the assistance of the Choctaw Nation, she would not be the person she is today.