STILLWATER — It was the day after Signing Day, and Bob Connelly had arrived at his newest coaching destination.
Or so he thought.
He had just finished the 2,000-mile drive from the Phoenix area to Statesboro, Ga., where he was set to become the offensive line coach at Georgia Southern.
About a week later, he got a phone call.
Mike Gundy was on the other line, offering him the same position at Oklahoma State.
“I was obviously on pins and needles waiting to hear back,” Connelly said. “… When the call did come, boy, it was a ton of bricks falling off my shoulders.”
So count that very brief stay in Georgia as a minor pit stop for Connelly, who replaces Joe Wickline at OSU and has a journeyman resume typical of many assistant coaches that he hopes will benefit him and the Cowboys on this new adventure.
“I think, through time, they're going to develop the respect,” Connelly said, “and the appreciation for the knowledge that I can provide them through fundamentals and technique, as well as through scheme, to put the players in the best position to be successful to be on the field on Saturdays and off the field in society.”
Connelly's got stops in Texas and on the West Coast and in the SEC. He was in the middle of the infamous Mike Price saga at Alabama in 2003. Price was fired after a long, expensive night at a Florida strip club, but Connelly stayed on staff when Mike Shula came aboard. He even spent last season coaching high school football in Arizona.
Originally, though, Connelly needed some convincing to get into coaching. That first opportunity came from Eddie Vowell, who offered Connelly a graduate assistant job at Texas A&M-Commerce (then East Texas State) after his playing career.
“Obviously haven't looked back,” Connelly said.
Short tenures at Cisco Junior College (offensive line and tight ends, 1996-97), Texas A&M (graduate assistant, 1998), Cal State Northridge (offensive line and tight ends, 1999) and San Jose State (offensive line, 2000) followed.
Then, Connelly linked up at Washington State with Price, whom Connelly considers the most influential man on his career. He spent two seasons on that staff and was invited to join Price's staff when he took the Alabama job.
“Very, very instrumental in my growth professionally,” Connelly said of Price. “He's provided avenues and opportunities for me to grow under him and then obviously has given me opportunities to go and visit with other coaches and other staffs …
“He's like a father to me. Just a great, great, great friend, great man, great football coach.”
Also on that Wazzu staff? Current OSU receivers coach Kasey Dunn. That relationship would come in handy for Connelly about a decade later.
Price's mishap led to his firing before ever coaching a game for Alabama. The entire offensive staff was let go, as well.
That is, everyone but Connelly.
Connelly spent four years on Shula's staff, where he learned the pro-style offense. The Crimson Tide ran a multitude of protections and run schemes, from formations with one running back and four wide receivers to looks with two running backs and two or three tight ends.
“He's an exceptionally good offensive mind,” Connelly said of Shula, who is now the Carolina Panthers' offensive coordinator.
Following a one-year stint under Karl Dorrell at UCLA, Connelly reunited with Price. Price was coaching at UTEP and offered Connelly a chance to be the associate head coach and co-offensive coordinator in addition to coaching the offensive line.
Those four years in El Paso led to an opportunity to be the associate head coach and offensive line coach on Todd Graham's staff at Arizona State in 2012. But Graham did not retain him after that season.
Connelly didn't want to move his family after one year. He also wasn't sure what he would do while he waited for the next job cycle.
Then a “friend of a friend” named Tim Rutt presented him with a unique opportunity — assisting him at Gilbert High School near Phoenix during his first year as head coach.
Connelly was one of just two coaches who remained on campus all day, while many others held normal day jobs and only came to the school for practice. He tried to teach the players and coaches about breaking down film and structuring practices and meetings and preparing for opponents.
“It was informative for them. It was informative for me,” Connelly said. “It gave me something to do and got me out of the house. I enjoyed it. I really did. The kids were very appreciative. The parents were very appreciative.”
But the plan was always to get back into college coaching, if possible. At the American Football Coaches Association Convention earlier this winter, Dunn got Connelly interviews with Cowboy offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich and Gundy.
Gundy wanted to wait until after Signing Day to make a hire. Connelly, of course, understood. But then the Georgia Southern offer came, and he took it.
Until that phone call from Gundy.
Not only does coming to Stillwater put Connelly back in big-time football, it brings him the closest to family he's been since that grad assistant stint at Texas A&M in the late 90s. His family is based in The Woodlands, Texas, near Houston. His wife, Raquel, is from Mesquite, Texas, while her mother lives in Frisco, Texas, and her father lives in Arkansas.
About a week into the new job, though, Connelly admits he feels a bit “like a chicken with my head off.”
He's working to learn new terminology on a new staff. He's evaluating film of his returning players while beginning to look at 2015 prospects.
But he hopes he can bring that knowledge he's obtained throughout his journeyman career and apply it at OSU for years to come.
“I look forward to continuing building a relationship as a football coach,” Connelly said. “And at the end of the day, I want to mentor and educate our players to be the best they can be, both on and off the football field.”