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- American football coach
- American football player and coach
When Lincoln Riley left to become USC’s new head football coach, it left Oklahoma temporarily in flux.
Now, with the hiring of Brent Venables as the Sooners’ new head coach, things have stabilized in Norman. One of the amazing parts of this transition has been Bob Stoops returning as Oklahoma’s interim head coach.
After five seasons away, Stoops is set to write a final chapter in his OU coaching legacy when the Sooners play Oregon in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29.
Oklahoma’s players seem to be really enjoying the opportunity to play this standalone game with Stoops back as head coach, too.
Senior linebacker DaShaun White was admittedly never very close to Stoops before he took over in the interim, but, of course, he had heard stories.
“I think that just since I’ve been here just always seeing him in the facilities, always seeing him around the team, always hearing stories about him like when he was head ball coach, just there’s so many things. This place sort of doesn’t let him go and he doesn’t let go of this place either. Having the opportunity to play for a coach like him, really excited to be honest with you. Like I said, I’ve watched him from afar. I’ve just watched the way this place has really loved on him. I’m starting to understand why so many people are really, really big on him, so obviously really excited to be able to play for him,” White said.
Sophomore wide receiver Marvin Mims grew up an LSU fan and didn’t know much about Stoops until he got to Norman. Mims said Stoops’ message in the aftermath of Riley’s departure resonated with he and his teammates.
“It’s definitely been a unique experience. The things he’s done at this university. He kind of told his resume, his story whenever he first got here and how the team was before and the next two years how they ended up being. I think that’s something the team really needed every time he says it, because it’s something that really does hit us in the heart and it’s kind of telling us what we’re capable of doing if we just stick together and do the things we need to do. I think his leadership has had a huge positive impact on this team,” Mims said.
Redshirt junior running back Kennedy Brooks said it also mattered that the message was delivered by Stoops.
“I think it was really important. Just coming from him honestly. Just the belief that everybody has in him and him always sticking around and being for OU. It really just lifted everybody’s spirits up,” Brooks said.
Stoops let the team leaders know that continuity was the most important thing during the transition from Riley to Venables.
“It was big. It was really big for us. We needed someone to sort of step in and help us sort of keep each other together. Really he got in there with the leaders and he was like, ‘You know, I know there’s a lot of things that we really don’t know right now, but the most important thing is that we stay together.’ We all just sort of followed his lead and I think that that was definitely what we needed at the time, so obviously really thankful for him,” White said.
Mims said Stoops really wants to win this game against Oregon, too.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it is pretty cool. He wants to win this game. He’s expressed that many different ways. He’s out there with us every day and I’m grateful for it,” Mims said.
Sophomore defensive end Reggie Grimes said the stories about Stoops have lived up to the billing.
“That guy’s a legend. He has a statue out front. I personally was never coached under him, but we’ve got Isaac here, we’ve got Drake here, so he was always around. You see him on TV, you see him on Big Noon Kickoff, so just to kind of actually have him as a head coach. You hear about the legend of Bob Stoops. As far as that’s concerned, he’s a great guy. He’s a guy that again I would also run through a wall for. Whatever was asked of me from him, I would be more than happy to accept and to do just because everything that has been said about him is true. He is who he says he is,” Grimes said.
In what could very well be his final game playing for Oklahoma, Brooks feels Stoops’ presence adds a little something extra for the game against Oregon.
“For me, I think it does. Playing with Bob, a legendary coach, I mean I think that will be fun. It’s something I always wanted to do. It’s one of the reasons why I came here, so having the chance to fulfill that dream for me, I think it’ll be fun,” Brooks said.
The Valero Alamo Bowl also represents an opportunity to put a positive final touch on a season that ends in transition before Oklahoma embarks into a future that will be guided by Venables.
“It’s kind of both ends. It’s the end of the season and it is a new beginning. You know, we’ve had people gone, people leave. A lot of people leave. Players, coaches. All types of stuff. We’ve got new people come in as in coaches. At the end of the day, I mean it is both. It is both. It’s the end to a great year. We’re 10-2 right now and also it’s going to be the start of something new under coach Venables. With coach Stoops coaching, it’s going to be great for every player in there. We want to go out and give it our all. We want to close out this year strong and have something to look forward to coming back in January when we come back to workouts,” Mims said.