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Berry Tramel: Coaches try to help players move forward after tragedy

Move forward. That's what Texas' Mack Brown learned on the worst day of his coaching career. “Sometimes they don't every move on,” Mike Gundy said.
by Berry Tramel Published: May 28, 2011
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/articleid/3572410/1/pictures/1430321">Photo - COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OSU head coach Mike Gundy watches the Orange/White spring football game for the Oklahoma State University Cowboys at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, April 16, 2011. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OSU head coach Mike Gundy watches the Orange/White spring football game for the Oklahoma State University Cowboys at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, April 16, 2011. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD

“A chance to get things off their chest,” Gundy said. “A chance to say, ‘Hey, how's everybody?' A lot of these players don't have somebody of strength to discuss things with.”

The tough-guy culture of football sometimes pressures players to keep things internal. Which is the last thing they need.

“All people accept death differently, in all walks of life,” Gundy said. “Players called me crying.”

Defensive end Victor DeGrate was a good player and a tough guy. But he struggled with Grant's death. “He didn't want to hide it,” Gundy said. “He would talk about it. But to this day, it bothers him. He was an emotional person.”

Down in Texas, Brown is an emotional person, too.

“We try to reinforce to our players and staff that life isn't forever,” Brown said. “It can be taken away quickly and without warning, so try to make something of every day. Enjoy every minute because you don't know how long it's going to last and there are no guarantees. That's a message we share a lot because of Cole.”

Brown says he tells each freshman class the story of Cole Pittman. The UT football building contains photos and recognition of Pittman. The video and program of Pittman's funeral are in Brown's office.

“I think about him every day,” Brown said.

Cole's father, Marc, recently spent an hour visiting Brown in his office. Cole's mother, Judy, attended UT's academic awards banquet this spring. The Pittman family has a foundation that raises money for scholarships; Pittman's teammates return every summer for a fundraising event.

Said Brown, “The Pittmans and Texas football will be linked forever.”

So, too, will Oklahoma football and Austin Box.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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