Calvin Thibodeaux has been recruiting against Oklahoma the last few seasons. When he was at Tulsa, he thought he had won over Matthew Romar until OU made a late charge.
Last cycle Thibodeaux did all he could to help Kansas land Scout 300 defensive end Amani Bledsoe before the Sooners carried the day in the end.
After years of going head-to-head in an uphill climb, Thibodeaux is on the other side. He’s the one coming into schools with the OU logo on, and he couldn’t be more excited.
“Man, it was emotional,” Thibodeaux said. “This has always been a dream and a goal of mine. To know it was a possibility, I was champing at the bit.”
OU didn’t expect to be back on the coaching search this offseason, but the Sooners were back to the grind when former defensive line coach Diron Reynolds left following one year at OU to become Stanford’s defensive line coach.
Other candidates emerged as well, but the name everybody tossed around was definitely Thibodeaux. Whether it’s because he played at OU under Bob Stoops or because he now had some Power 5 conference time under his belt at Kansas, the stars seemed to be aligning in that direction.
The process happened so fast, and it wasn’t a long wait. Stoops didn’t beat around the bush when it came to making his intentions known.
“After the interview coach wound up offering me the job,” Thibodeaux said. “It was crazy. I was emotional like, ‘Wow! That just happened.’ I thought maybe one day that would happen, but for it to happen so quickly, it was truly a blessing.”
A dream fulfilled and something Thibodeaux could have never imagined when he graduated from OU back in 2005.
Since then, he has been a sponge soaking up information as a graduate assistant at Houston, coaching at Dartmouth, Tulsa and Kansas. But there’s something different when it comes to OU, and expectation he fully understands having worn that jersey at one time.
“You just kind of know the culture,” Thibodeaux said. “You know what’s expected. Being able to play in Big 12 championships and playing in every single BCS bowl game, I bring those experiences with me, and I know what it takes to get to that.”
It’s that type of wisdom that should make this transition go as smooth as possible. It won’t be easy for OU’s defensive linemen, now working with their third coach in as many years and third personality.
Jerry Montgomery was someone the players could relate to and had fun with. Diron Reynolds was a calm, brilliant teacher and developer of talent. The goal with Thibodeaux is to combine the two and his message was clear when addressing the players.
“For me, when I first got here I met with each kid individually and I just told them they had a fresh start,” Thibodeaux said. “I told them whatever happened before was irrelevant, whether good or bad. I told them they would have a fresh start and what they put on their tape was their resume.
“A lot of guys were excited about that. Just a fresh start, a new opportunity. I talked about an open door policy and I was going to put my hand around them and love them and you have to earn that from the kids. I really think these guys were great accepting me and it’s only going to get better as time goes along.”
Thibodeaux said he wasn’t in the running to really be the guy last year when Reynolds was hired, and he was all-in with his efforts at KU to make the Jayhawks better under David Beaty.
But when OU came calling, he knew two things. No. 1 is the obvious with the Sooners being his dream job. No. 2 was he had to come clean to Beaty and his players.
“This is my dream job,” Thibodeaux said. “This is the place and I wanted to be here. You always say you have to do what’s best for your family, but when you recruit kids and build those relationships with those kids they become your family.
“It wasn’t easy. Coach Beaty was awesome to me and my family and those kids are awesome. I had to look them in the eye, communicate what was happening and it wasn’t easy.”
He did it, though. From a stint in Canada after graduating to being back home in Houston, Thibodeaux realized he had found his calling.
And now he’s realized his dream.
“The best part is just you coming in and seeing yourself working with the guy that I played for,” Thibodeaux said. “That’s amazing I’m doing what Coach Stoops did. That’s pretty awesome.”