STILLWATER — Bob Connelly went house-hunting after being hired to coach the Oklahoma State offensive line a few months ago. He bought a home with a swimming pool. On purpose. He wants it filled with Cowboy linemen.
Connelly preaches brotherhood to his blockers.
“We’re a unit,” Connelly says. “We’re a team within the team. We have five guys. I tell my guys all the time, as a defense, if it’s a pass rush, they’re bringing four or they’re bringing five or six. Those guys are counting on one guy to win and they all win. As an offensive line unit, we can have four guys do their job 100 percent correctly and have one guy not do their job, and we all lose.
“So very, very important that we are unison. We all have to be a team within a team. There’s great communication that takes place.”
And Connelly believes that unity and cohesion come from beyond the field. With both his relationship with the players, and players’ relationship with each other.
Cowboy center Paul Lewis said the biggest difference between Connelly and the iconic coach he replaced, Joe Wickline, is that Connelly is more personally “hands-on than Wick was. That’s about the only difference between ’em. He (Connelly) wants you to come talk to him, he wants to get to know you more. He’s more personable.”
Hence the swimming pool. The NCAA regulates how much coaches can entertain their players in a home setting, but Connelly says he will do the maximum.
“Every opportunity that I get to do that, I’m certainly going to do that, because that’s a way for us to come together,” Connelly said. “That’s very important. I’m going to always facilitate that. We’ll have the guys over, we’ll barbeque, we’ll have ’em out. The more we can be around each other, the more time we can spend, the more knowledge we gain from each other, I truly believe you get better play out of that group.”
Connelly’s belief is not unique. High school, college, perhaps even the NFL, the most compact unit is the offensive line. They seem to gravitate to each other socially and stick together.
“The reason I think is, because no one else on the field works the way we do,” Lewis said. “We always have to work on combo blocks and inside blocks, in order to have success on offense. That’s one reason the offensive line is a tighter group. The offensive line coach, being in our position before, he knows that. That’s how we want to have success.”
Thus Connelly preaches unity.
“I try to have those guys around each outside a football setting, doing dinner, meeting at each other’s house, playing games, I don’t care what it is,” Connelly said. “Playing cards, get together to watch the Final Four. Doesn’t matter. Spend time together.
“With more appreciation, with more knowledge for each other, it’s like a family. The more you know and the more you care about each other, the more you’re going to do for one another. That’s very much part of my philosophy. We’re very family oriented. I believe in that. And I’ve talked to our guys all the time. We’re only as good as our weakest link.
“So it’s not about me. It’s about us, it’s about we. Obviously, the standard saying for team is ‘together everyone achieves more.’ I fully believe in that strategy. I fully believe in that mantra. That’s something that I preach.”