"It's a great story. We told him he couldn't play, he said he could," Gundy said.
Kye Staley was rated by several recruiting services as the top high school player in Oklahoma as a senior at Guthrie High School in 2008. He led the Blue Jays to the state championship with 1,380 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns. Staley also threw for 625 yards and caught 10 touchdown passes.
Many thought he would see the field early and often in Stillwater, but things didn't go as planned.
After redshirting his freshman year, Staley had been impressive in the spring and was vying for a role in the Cowboys' backfield with All-American junior Kendall Hunter and seniors Keith Toston and Beau Johnson at the position.
But that all changed on Aug. 15, 2009. During practice that Saturday, Staley suffered a torn MCL, ACL and meniscus when a player rolled into his knee. And his prognosis was even more grim than usual because of severe nerve damage sustained in the accident.
"When I got hurt, I didn't know what was going to happen. They basically told me I'd probably never walk again, much less play football," Staley said. "I wouldn't take that."
And Staley didn't.
Despite having no feeling in his right foot for two months after surgery and being fitted with a brace to keep his foot pointed forward, Staley was determined to play football at Oklahoma State.
During the two years of recovery, there were definite low points, including a stint where Staley left the team, but Staley relied heavily on his family and his faith for support.
"I had my mom and my uncle there for me, there were definitely times where I was down and just felt like, what am I even doing here, why am I still trying to do this?' but they just kept me positive and kept me toward God," Staley said. "They just kept praying through the good and through the bad."
The bad was a long process, but the good came out in the Cowboys' season-opening victory against Louisiana on Sept. 3. Staley played football in front of the orange-clad crowd for the first time in his career and played football in a meaningful game for the first time since the state title game his senior year of high school. It was an experience that played to his emotional side.
"Back in Guthrie, I was an emotional person and nothing's really changed," he said. "Some people get nervous but, for me, my adrenaline was just kicking so much I just went out there and played as hard and as passionately as I played three years ago. I just went out there and had fun, I practice hard so I'm going to play hard.
"I was determined to be patient and let my nerves heal because I knew I had something to offer. That was going to determine whether I got to play again or not, the rest is history. I'm just blessed and happy to be back. It was a long journey."
And that journey turned nearly miraculous for Staley on Thursday night in front of a national television audience. With nearly seven minutes remaining in the first quarter, quarterback Brandon Weeden spotted Staley floating out of the backfield and hit him for a 5-yard pass completion.
And that might have been the most meaningful 5-yard gain any player on this Cowboy team will ever experience.
"When I caught that ball, man," Staley said. "I just … I just can't describe it."
Staley finished Thursday's 37-14 victory against Arizona with one carry for four yards and two receptions for 14 yards. He also had several key blocks, including one to spring running back Joseph Randle for 41 yards on the game's opening drive.
Staley, who had never played fullback before, has embraced the role he's been given.
"Ever since I came from Guthrie I've been a team player, when coach came to me and said they wanted to try me at fullback, I'm all for it," he said. " I just wanted my team to be successful and get wins. I embraced it going in to two-a-days, I just took it as a different attitude. Our past fullback, Bryant Ward, he enjoyed it so much and that's the attitude I took toward it. I just wanted to have fun with it and I do have fun out there."
And Staley may have no bigger supporter than Gundy.
"You guys know how I feel about him, it's just special to get to see him touch the football and get back out there and make a play," Gundy said. "And don't think he's not in some pain, he's playing with some pain out there but it's important to him and he's kind of what college football is all about. He's a special kid."
When asked if he was, in fact, playing with pain, a smile crept across Staley's face and he delivered his answer with the defiance of a young man who knows the meaning of the word.
"Not at all, sir. Not one bit."