Oklahoma Panhandle State's offensive linemen piled into two well-used, 16-passenger vans and departed on a 12-hour journey for an Oct. 21, 1995 game at Iowa Wesleyan.
Chauffeuring one of the off-white “hog vans” was 23-year-old assistant coach Bill Bedenbaugh, who just figured such menial tasks were part of any college football coach's job description.
Bedenbaugh also mopped the weight room floor, cut the grass, lined the field and assembled equipment during his one season as offensive line coach at the small university in Goodwell, an Oklahoma outpost located 300 miles northwest of the college football mecca where he'll work in 2013.
“He's gone from driving the van to Wesleyan to riding on the charter plane to Notre Dame,” said then-OPSU head coach Rick Haasl, who gave Bedenbaugh his first job nearly 18 years ago.
“That is so cool. My goodness.”
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops hired Bedenbaugh in February to toughen up the Sooners' offensive line and enhance recruiting at those positions.
The new OU assistant has coached linemen all over the country, but perhaps nothing better illustrates Bedenbaugh's attitude, work ethic and coaching ability than the story of his year in the Oklahoma Panhandle.
“It humbles you,” said Fred Chain, a freshman offensive tackle on the Aggies' 1995 squad. “You have to work harder at a place like that. Nobody gave anything to us, and nobody gave anything to him.
“Everybody that went through there is somebody special because they made it out of there. They took a chance to go to the middle of nowhere.”
Bedenbaugh had just graduated from Iowa Wesleyan in the summer of 1995 when he got a call from Pat Poore, his last head coach who'd just taken a job as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma Panhandle State.
“I was actually probably about to go be a high-school coach and go that route, and about a week or so before the fall season started, he called and asked if I wanted to do it,” Bedenbaugh remembered.
There was no interview and very little time to think about it. So Bedenbaugh jumped on a plane to Amarillo, Texas, then drove two hours north on U.S. Highway 287 to Goodwell to accept the position.
For Bedenbaugh, who was born in Philadelphia and lived in suburbs of Houston and Chicago growing up, the scenery wasn't anything he was used to.
“Along the way, it was nothing that I had really experienced,” Bedenbaugh said. “I didn't see a whole bunch.”
Ditto for when he arrived in Goodwell, a tiny town with a population just north of 1,000, not much housing available and very little entertainment.
Bedenbaugh lived in the OPSU dorms just like a student, which actually became quite helpful as he found unique ways to connect with his players.
“He was one of us in a lot of ways,” said Frank Beede, a senior left guard that year.
One of the things about Bedenbaugh that immediately impressed Haasl, though, was the young coach's ability to keep things professional with his players, many of whom were around the same age.
The Bill Bedenbaugh file
Position: Oklahoma offensive line coach
High school: St. Charles (Ill.) High School
College: Graduated in 1995 with his bachelor's degree from Iowa Wesleyan, where he was a four-year starter on the offensive line. Earned a master's degree in 2001 from Texas Tech.
1995: Panhandle State, offensive line
1996: Valdosta State, offensive line
1997-98: Central Michigan, graduate assistant
1999: Ferris State, offensive line/running game coordinator
2000-02: Texas Tech, graduate assistant
2003-04: Texas Tech, running backs
2005-06: Texas Tech, offensive line
2007-09: Arizona, offensive line/running game coordinator
2010: Arizona, co-offensive coordinator/offensive line
2011-12: West Virginia, offensive line