It had never entered the head of Oklahoma linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. Not one time did he consider he would play his senior season without Bob Stoops there on the sideline.
Even when a team meeting Wednesday was moved up from 3:30 to 2:30, he didn’t flinch. He took a nap and actually arrived a couple minutes late.
The news was out. Stoops was retiring after 18 years and 10 Big 12 championships and Lincoln Riley was taking over.
All Okoronkwo could think about was how Stoops gave him a second chance. During his first couple of years in Norman, things weren’t going great for Okoronkwo. Stoops never gave up on him, and Okoronkwo wanted to repay Stoops with a championship.
“I really wanted to give him a national championship this year,” he said. “That was one of the big things we stressed in the player meetings before he left. It’s my last year. We were all talking about, ‘Let’s all go out and get Bob a ring.’ He has 10 conference championships, but we wanted to give him a national championship.”
Okoronkwo is a Houston native so the news hit hard but not as hard for someone like safety Steven Parker. For nearly his entire life, he’s known one thing. Bob Stoops is the coach at OU.
“My stomach just dropped,” Parker said. “I’ve been in Oklahoma for 21 years, my whole life. Born in Oklahoma City, raised in Tulsa, went to Jenks High School. I grew up watching Bob Stoops and all the players that came before me. It’s very surreal. But at the same time, it’s a blessing that I got a chance to play under a great coach.”
That’s the other reality that set in Wednesday. Former players from all over expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to play for Stoops, to learn from Stoops and to grow as a better human being because of their time with Stoops.
Everybody knew Wednesday afternoon was coming someday, nobody knew it was coming on that day. Even when your name is Baker Mayfield, it doesn’t mean you saw it coming.
Mayfield, of course, decided to take a gamble and walk-on at OU following the 2013 season. When asked how big of a role did Stoops play in that, Mayfield didn’t mince words Wednesday.
“Almost all of it,” said Mayfield before taking a long pause.
“I always thought I’d finish up my career playing under coach Stoops and being thankful for that.
“He runs a program the right way. He’s made this school into a great program over the last 18 years, and he’s done a great job. A winning tradition is something I wanted to do, so he was a huge impact if not all of it for me.”