Gundy, Nutt: Mutual Admiration Society

Houston Nutt was a 28-year-old assistant coach when Mike Gundy arrived on the Oklahoma State campus in 1986 as a freshman. The two saw each other nearly every day for four years while the Cowboys were winning 30 of 46 games. The mutual admiration the two have for each other will be put aside when Nutt's Ole Miss Rebels and Gundy's Oklahoma State Cowboys meet in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2, 2010.

The 53-year-old Nutt was a quarterback at Oklahoma State for two seasons under Jimmy Johnson, and then spent six years (1984-89) as an assistant coach under Pat Jones. Gundy, 42, was the Cowboys' starting quarterback for much of Nutt's tenure on the OSU coaching staff, and has been OSU's head coach for five seasons.

Nutt has compiled a 128-78 record (62.1 winning percentage) as a head coach at Murray State, Boise State, Arkansas and Mississippi. Gundy's teams are 36-26 (58.1 percent) since he took over the OSU program.

"When I was working for Pat Jones my first memory of Mike Gundy was right at the first of two-a-days (his freshman year). He was a guy that was pretty confident stepping into that huddle," Nutt said Sunday evening during a teleconference announcing that Oklahoma State and Mississippi would be meeting in the 2010 Cotton Bowl.

"Once he got his chance as a true freshman ... we knew we only wanted one person in that huddle and that was Mike Gundy. He's a tremendous leader. He had a lot of confidence. He knew how to move those chains," Nutt added. "Now as you fast forward and you see him work as the head coach now, things are pretty much the same except now he's directing (the program).

"I have an awesome respect for what he's done, and I'm very proud of him."

The Cotton Bowl will be the first time that teams coached by Gundy and Nutt will meet.

Gundy says, "I've followed Coach Nutt's career ever since he left here and moved on to several places as a head coach. I've got a great amount of respect for him, and I think that's what makes this profession so special is when there are people who have been together at one time or another and they've been able to branch out … it's not surprising what Coach Nutt's done."

Nutt was receivers coach during his time at Oklahoma State in the 1980s, and coached former Oklahoma State All-American wide receiver Hart Lee Dykes, whom he received a telephone call from last week.

"We talked about Barry Sanders and Mike Gundy and the rest of the crew. Those were fun times," said Nutt, whose Rebels will enter the Cotton Bowl with an 8-4 record, losing only to South Carolina (16-10), Alabama (22-3), Auburn (33-20) and Mississippi State (41-27).

"This is going to be a great week for (my family). We're going to get to see a lot of people. I'm sure Sandra (Swank) and Joyce (Robbins) are still there, right Mike?" Nutt asked.

Both Sandra Swank and Joyce Robbins were members of the Oklahoma State football support staff while Nutt was on the staff more than 20 years ago, and the two ladies are still valuable members to the Cowboy football program.

"I feel the same way that coach does. We had some great times and great memories," Gundy added.

Nutt said what he learned during his time at Oklahoma State, both as a player and a coach, have been instrumental in his success as a head coach.

"Of course Jimmy Johnson was my head coach when I was playing, and Pat Jones was the defensive coordinator, so right away you're talking about playing good defense, you're talking about good special teams play, and offensively, it was a ground-oriented team and you always wanted to establish the run," he said. "It's not like now when things are much more wide open with a lot of different formations. But that's where it all started, and I wouldn't trade any of that time.

"The same goes for Eddie Sutton too, who I played for (at the University of Arkansas before he transferred to OSU). Defense, discipline, dedication was his motto, and so you take all those coaches and you learn from them. You've got to be yourself but that's where we had a lot of good learning days on that campus in Stillwater."

Gundy said the OSU football staff and players are excited about returning to the Cotton Bowl after losing 31-28 to an Eli-Manning led Mississippi team in the 2004 version of the game.

"We're very excited to have the opportunity to play in the Cotton Bowl with the new beginning with the new (Dallas Cowboys) stadium," the Cowboy head coach said. "The players and the people here in Stillwater are really, really excited. We're really fortunate to be in such a great bowl.

"We're looking forward to playing a very, very good Ole Miss football team, and it should be a great game. I know that our fans feel the same way. All I heard going around town the last week or so in the community was how everybody was looking for tickets because they want to be there. So it should be a great, great show and we're looking forward to getting down there and spending a great week in north Texas," Gundy added.

Nutt said, "I also would like congratulate Mike Gundy and Oklahoma State. I've watched a couple of games and they have done an outstanding job this year. This is going to be a good game. It is going to be an excellent game to watch. We can't wait to get to Arlington and get to Dallas, and see the new stadium."

Kickoff for the nationally televised game (Fox Sports) is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Jan. 2, 2010.

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