Mike Gundy Q&A (Part 1)

I spoke with Mike Gundy on my radio program with the idea of using some of it for a Q&A in the August issue of Go Pokes Magazine. The conversation, just more than 20 minutes, had so much good information, including his view of the military and flight earlier this summer with Blue Angels pilot Maj. Nathan Miller. Here is part one of the conversation with the Cowboys' "Top Gun."

GP: I know as you look out of your office window you think about football, but with this weather you might be thinking about building an ark.
Gundy: "I'm just a little curious as to how this weather is going to effect all this practice (summer workouts). I saw the 10-day forecast the other day and the first few days of July through July 5th or 6th or whatever it was you know the highs were like 85 or 90. You know by July 4th we're usually cooking around here. Obviously, we've had an unusual spring and are having an unusual summer. It is what it is and you can only control things you can control and the weather is not one of them.

GP: We talked to Rob Glass and I know he would really like to see some heat to help condition the team for the situations they will face in preseason camp and early season games especially that trip to hot and humid Athens, Georgia.
Gundy: I would think that when this finally clears out of here, with as much moisture as we've had that we're going to get the humidity. We're looking forward to that. Coach Glass and the strength staff obviously do a tremendous job in the summer, and this is one of the most difficult times of the year for our team, (with) very long strenuous and hard workouts, lot of running, strong commitment from the team. These guys now have matured enough where they actually run their own practice on their own, very much like we would run as coaches. But they do it by themselves. The leaders, the older players, they run the practices. They are getting a lot out of it. I haven't seen any of it, but our strength staff says they've been very structured, very organized, and very productive. The commitment is there and that's what it takes to play well early in the season.

GP: You are pretty good in your public persona of staying even keeled, but there is more anticipation for this upcoming OSU football season than maybe since you were quarterbacking with Barry Sanders and Hart Lee Dykes in 1988. I've known you a long time and you have to be very excited inside, right?
Gundy: I'm very excited and, you know Robert, I try not to take anything with our University or our team individually. It is a group project. I am as excited as I've ever been. Everybody knows how I feel about the University, and when I sit in my office and I look out and I see that they've got half this west end zone enclosed. I can visualize what it is going to be and the sound and the excitement. The people in the community of Stillwater and the excitement that they have and everybody starting to buy into what we're trying to do here, from Coach Holder all the way down to myself and our team, the athletic village and the stadium is exciting. People are starting to see why we wanted to buy the property on the north side of the stadium. Change concerns people most of the time but if you ever get to a standstill then your competitors are going to pass you buy. I don't care what business you are in, and it has happened to us the last 50 years. All that excitement is built up in me and it can get here fast enough for me. It's a good time of year for me because I get to work normal hours and in July I will take a week off with my family. It's a good time for me and my three sons and obviously Kristen. For the most part I can't get ready fast enough. We are thrilled and excited with the opener at Georgia and there have been a lot of different comments about that. It has certainly helped the players through the spring and into the summer knowing that we are going to open up with a top 15, whatever they're ranked, I don't know what Georgia is going to be ranked. I know we're excited and the coaches and the players expect to go down and win the football game, so I just try to do the best that I can to keep it in. Our players are going to class, we're graduating our players, our attitude is good and those things are very important to me. We want to be very structured and very disciplined in everything we do here. We are firm believers that there is no other way to do it when you are dealing with 115 males between the ages of 18 and 23. All those things excite me and I'm just thrilled to be here and looking forward to the future.

GP: I've had players tell me they like the make up of this team in maturity and decision making morally off the field. This is a time of year that coaches can dread because generally any news this time of year is bad news. Do you feel better about your team in that regard?
Gundy: Accountability and responsibility is the most important thing with the young players. This is the time of year that you worry because they have more free time. I'm not a big fan of free time when it comes to these guys because that is when they can get into trouble, there are going to be mistakes. Don't think that these young people, I don't care if they are students at the school, young people in society, or players on this football team, there are going to be times that they are going to make mistakes. We hold everybody on this football team accountable for things that they do both on and off the field, and try to make the best decisions that we can. If they make mistakes we deal with it. We are not in the business of running players off. We are in the business of nurturing them and bringing them along and trying to develop them as young men. It is easy to coach and it's easy to be around the ones that do everything right all the time. The challenges are the ones that need the coaching and need to be developed and nurtured and may not have had the quality background that we're trying to present to them in our football program. This is the time you worry about it, but you keep your thumb on it. You rely on your players to be leaders like the Bobby Reids, the Savages, the Nethons. You know Jeremy Nethon has turned into a leader for us. Here is a guy that is a cat with nine lives. The Martel Van Zants, Donovan Woods and all these players that have developed and been through the program are helping with our incoming freshmen, who are very, very talented but they need to understand what it takes to be a part of this football team. It's not just playing on Saturday, but there has to be a strong commitment and accountability in all areas to function in society so you can be productive some day in the real world.

GP Revisiting your flight a few weeks ago with Maj. Miller of the Blue Angels. Looking back on that now, what did you get out of that?
Gundy: First off, I have even more respect now for those pilots than I did prior to and a lot of times over the last few weeks the comparison has been made to "Top Gun" and when everybody saw "Top Gun" including myself we all became infatuated with the jet pilots. With all that is going in the country right now and overseas in Iraq and our soldiers, I've said this and I'm not a guy that is going to debate politics, but I will say that I stand tall whether it comes that you're a Democrat, Republican, or part of the Whig party. I don't care who you are, if we've got men and women overseas fighting then we have to support them and back them up or do like Jack Nicholson said in the movie (A Few Good Men), then you need to grab a gun and guard yourself. They allow us the freedom to do anything we want in this country. When I was first approached about this they wanted me for some media exposure. I didn't know if I could help them with media exposure, but I just felt that I could be a part of something in any fashion or forum to help our country and to help those people that are over there fighting for us every day. Maj. Miller, who I flew with, has a thousand hours flying overseas and 300 carrier takeoffs and landings so he's risked his life multiple times for us. Not that what I did was risking my life but it was a thrill of a lifetime for me to get in that jet and spend time with him.

GP: You really seemed to hit it off with the Major that day.
Gundy: He is a football fan and he is actually from up north in Michigan, 20 miles outside the Flint area where my mother grew up, so we had some things in common there. He went to the Air Force Academy but actually became a Marine pilot and is a big football fan. I hadn't told my wife yet, but he actually put my name on a list to fly with him and take off and land on an aircraft carrier in San Diego and stay the night on the ship. My name is on that list. To tell you the truth I'd do it again in a heartbeat. It was one of the greatest thrills I've had outside anything involved with my family. It was just a great experience and I'm proud to have been a part of it.

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