“I felt we had to start recruiting at a high level,” he said. “We had to recruit guys who wanted to be committed to our program at Oklahoma State University. I knew we had to step out of the box and toe the line, I knew we had to do something different here.”
How did the Cowboys step out of the box?
“We started traveling and running camps in Texas,” Gundy said. “We recruit Oklahoma as hard as anybody. But any given year, the numbers are considerably less than in Texas. In order for this program to run, we have to get players from Texas.”
The Pokes signed nineteen recruits from Texas in 2006, Gundy's first full recruiting cycle, including future NFL players in Cox, Okung and Keith Toston. From 2007 through 2011, OSU signed 78 recruits from Texas including standouts Dez Bryant, Kendall Hunter, Markelle Martin and Shaun Lewis.
“We started exploiting every opportunity in recruiting,” Gundy said. “We are there all the time, try to get in the schools and make our presence known. We tried to make people feel like the Dallas metroplex and East Texas area is like in-state for us.”
Recruiting is only part of the game however. Evaluation has been key and Gundy's policy to be as honest as possible with his players cannot be overlooked (see sidebars).
“Recruiting is only part of it, the other part is when you get them here you have to take care of them,” Gundy said. “Or after couple or three years you aren't going to be able to go down there (to their school to recruit) again.”
Success on the recruiting trail — especially in the Lone Star State — has sparked success on the field with OSU entering the season with the potential to crack the Top 10 for the third-straight season after making its fifth-straight bowl appearance in 2010.
“That was the biggest change for us,” Gundy said. “To really exploit our opportunities to recruit the state of Texas.”
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A solid foundation has been built and bringing quality talent to Stillwater has become a staple under Gundy.
Yet, that's not the best news for Cowboy fans.
The head coach who has played a critical role in making it happen doesn't not have one foot out the door or one eye on another job.
Mike Gundy is secure and confident in his “New York Yankees” job i.e. dream job entering his seventh season.
“The right guy is here with Mike,” Monken said. “Because when you won in the past, guys left. When Jimmie (Johnson) won three bowl games in a row, he went to Miami. When Les won, he left.
“Mike sees this as a destination job. The only way you gain credibility for a program is when your coach sees it as a destination job. When guys leave, it tells people this job's not good enough.”
Gundy is believes being the head coach at OSU is good enough.
Which means there's no reason to count the days until OSU stumbles, no matter what has happened in the past.
“You need a guy who's in charge, in his destination job, to maintain that (type of success),” Monken said.
Said special teams coordinator Joe DeForest: “There's a comfort in knowing that whatever we're doing, we're making a blueprint not only for today but for tomorrow and the future, because he's going to be here the whole way.”
Gundy's vision for Cowboy football is in its infant stages with his program taking steps toward his long-term goals but he understands it will take time.
“A consistent tradition is just getting started,” he said. “Hopefully you get 10 or 12 years of this and people will start seeing us a little differently as a football school, it's starting now and it's the first time it's really happened.”
Staff Writer John Helsley contributed to this report.