NORMAN — College football coaches lined up to pitch their schools to Adrian Peterson more than 10 years ago, promising him the moon.
Only one coach was different.
“We’ll win with or without you,” Oklahoma running backs coach Cale Gundy told Peterson, the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect in the recruiting class of 2004.
Thus began a bountiful relationship for both player and coach. Peterson became a superstar at Oklahoma and is now one of the NFL’s greatest running backs, and Gundy has continued to reap the benefits of signing Peterson to this day.
Gundy and the Sooners have reeled in at least one top-15 running back each year since 2010, with Katy (Texas) High senior Rodney Anderson becoming the latest with his commitment earlier this month. Gundy’s process for finding those backs, though, involves far more than just watching film and assessing on-field talent.
“I really almost try to scare players away when I recruit running backs,” Gundy said in an interview with The Oklahoman.
“When I watch film and I find my running backs that I know have the talent to play here, that’s just half of it. Then you’ve gotta find the character. Then you’ve gotta find out if he’s the fit you want at Oklahoma.”
Gundy tells recruits about Jerry Schmidt’s summer workouts. He tells them there will almost certainly be days when they are mad at him and wish they’d never signed with the Sooners.
“But at the end of the day, at the end of their career, five years from now, 10 years from now, they’ll realize it was the best decision of their life,” Gundy said.
Gundy found two running backs like that for the Sooners’ 2014 signing class, which included five-star standout Joe Mixon and four-star back Samaje Perine. Both Mixon and Perine were ranked among the best at their position in the country by every major recruiting service.