Todd Monken might be Oklahoma State's new offensive coordinator, but his influence on the program's rise to Big 12 and national prominence dates back to the early 2000s, when he, as the Cowboys' wide receivers coach, tutored Rashaun Woods, John Lewis, T.D. Bryant and others to major contributions.
A Wheaton, Ill., native and a product of tiny Knox College, Monken's career path has involved stops at small schools, major universities and the NFL. Now he's circled back to OSU, with his wife Terri and their son Travis, where an explosive Cowboys offense waits for him to seize the controls.
Obviously, over the six years since we left, there's a few more businesses in Stillwater. But the reality is the people are the same. We always felt like this is a group of very good people who are willing to help. We always felt like this was a neat community and very supportive and just full of good people. And that hasn't changed.
There's a lot of comfort in that. You can change buildings and there can be brighter lights, but the most important thing is the people you deal with on an everyday basis. And I think that's what's special about not only Stillwater, but Oklahoma in general.
We always liked it here, personally. We had good friends here. We won. People thought we were doing a good job here, which is important. No matter what you make, you like to be thanked and told you're doing a good job. So there are great memories here. And there were a lot of great players who helped us create those memories on the football side of it and helped me get to where I am today.
When I left, I didn't think we had a chance to win every game. From a coaching perspective, I've said this a number of times, I want to be somewhere where you have a chance to win every game. And when that isn't reality, then I don't want to be a part of it.
People want you to be honest, then when you're honest, they don't like it when you tell them something they don't agree with. I made comments before that I went to LSU because I felt like we had a chance to win every game. Then I went to the NFL and dangit if the year after that they didn't win the national championship.
I really feel with the change of facilities and with Mike and the other coaches, I think we have a chance to win every game.
They did an unbelievable job last year. Between Mike and Bill Young and Joe DeForest and Dana Holgorsen and the rest of the staff, what a great job. To end up where they did and have the guys who came out of nowhere and have the success they had, tremendous.
There's no way you can ever see the NFL from Knox College and think that's a realistic goal. People talk about goals, that's so far-fetched.
I was just wanting to coach. But with every plateau and every step you take, you think, ‘Maybe.' All of a sudden you get there and you're on the sideline across from the Miami Dolphins and I'm the luckiest guy in the world. Are you kidding me? I'm in the NFL? You talk about just an unbelievable feeling.
Knox College was a blessing. My dad was a coach. I always liked sports and liked goofing around enough to just kind of get by. You go to a small school, small classes and you've got to write and speak your mind. They know when you're not in class, which I never wanted to go to. Then you got to play football and we threw the ball around a lot. It really gave you an appreciation.
The big time is wherever you're at. I've always believed this, when I was at Knox or Grand Valley State or Eastern Michigan, when you beat your biggest rival and you have success, it feels the same as when I was here beating OU or when I was in the NFL and winning a playoff game.
Now, your ego isn't as stroked in the media as it is at that level, but I promise you, the feeling of accomplishment with the guys in that room are exactly the same. And those kind of things, from where I come from and not being accustomed to having everything, I'm certainly very appreciative. And I still am today, that somebody thinks enough of me to pay me to coach football. I say that very humbly.
I want to earn that and work hard every day to earn that. I'd be doing it for one-tenth of the money. And I was. But I don't coach for the money. I coach because I love competition, winning and helping kids. Hopefully that shows through with what I've tried to do over the years.
The biggest thing in the NFL is the line between team success and individual accomplishments can get very blurred. When money becomes a big factor, and I certainly understand it, statistics and individual goals mean individual reward and revenue. I get that.
Especially since I was coaching receivers, if we went 14-2 and a guy catches 31 balls, he's a thousandaire. If we go 2-14 and he catches 100 balls, he's a millionaire. I think that's a line that's hard for a player.
My dad's four brothers were coaches and my two brothers are coaches and my cousin's at Georgia Southern, so my dad had to have some impact (on my career choice). We always had a ball around the dang house and we were playing everything we could.
I always knew deep down I wanted to coach and I wanted to be involved in it. I always thought, ‘Man, wouldn't it be cool to recruit and get your own players and coach in college?'
I was the middle of three boys. My younger brother was the one who liked to shop a lot, so he's most like a girl. But there were no girls, so my mom had to deal with that. You take what you get and kind of roll with it. And she just kind of took us everywhere; took us to dad's games and got us to our ballgames. When dad had games and we had games, she made sure we were there.
It's an unbelievable role. Whether it's all of our wives when we're coaching, the commitment they make. You almost take it for granted. It takes getting older to appreciate that.
It was hard to leave here. Where this program was going, the guys who left, the guys who stayed … but over time, I think everybody kind of understood. But it's not easy when you develop friendships with people. But it's the job you've chosen. There's not a job I've left, where I had a choice, where you don't feel it. Especially your wives.
It's hard in our profession, because nothing ever splits up good. There are guys who stay, guys who left and guys who are out of work. It's never easy.