STILLWATER — Bob Koenig's eyes quickly fixed on the bright orange envelope seemingly glowing among the dozen or so white ones piled on his kitchen countertop in Cape Coral, Fla., home.
“I walked in and I looked at it and I turned to my wife and I said, ‘Who would go to Stillwater, Oklahoma? That's a long way,'” Koenig said of the football recruiting letter intended for his son.
“I ate those words, didn't I?”
Over and over, although the aftertaste has proved quite pleasant.
With his youngest son Daniel expected to start at right tackle in Saturday's season opener against Savannah State, Bob Koenig and his wife Cindy will have now provided the Cowboys with three offensive line starters dating back to the Bob Simmons era.
It started with Doug, the recipient of that first orange-colored correspondence, recruited then by Rob Ryan on Simmons' staff. Then came David, a four-year letterman who finished at OSU in 2007.
And now it's Daniel, believed by many to be the best of the Koenig boys, a sophomore who contributed a year ago and now projects as a long-term fixture along the Cowboys line.
“I had no idea what I was starting, absolutely not,” said Doug, who now works with David in Tampa at Ferguson Waterworks, a supplier of plumbing and building products to contractors.
Dad clearly didn't know, based on his initial reaction. Yet he and Cindy kept entrusting their sons to OSU, one after the other, connecting with a university and a football team some 1,400 miles from home on the southwest coast of Florida.
“I've used all my money and all my vacation going to Stillwater, for a long time,” Bob said. “And we've met a lot of good people and we enjoy it immensely when we're there.
“It's a good place to take some young boys and turn them into men. And the school has done a very good job with that.”
Doug scouted out Stillwater first, making an official visit to campus in 1999 and not knowing exactly what he'd find.
He was ranked as a top-80 prospect in talent-rich Florida and had interest from Miami, Central Florida, South Florida, Auburn, Mississippi and Tulane.
“I went there with an open mind,” he said. “Being from Florida, I knew it was going to be different. It was a lot better than I thought it was going to be.
“My first reaction was how overwhelmingly nice the people were.”
That impression has never changed. Doug embraced his time at OSU, met his wife – former Cowgirls tennis player Erin Pauchnik – at OSU and made many more lasting relationships at OSU.
“There's so much more to offer there than just going to play football,” Doug said. “The Midwest values are exceptional compared to other parts of the country. The people there and the guidance you get, it's more exceptional than any of the other places I've ever been, and not just in terms of the school, but the type of people who are there.”
David wasn't as highly recruited, yet Les Miles and Joe DeForest – who had coached Doug's best seasons as a Cowboy – tapped back into the Koenig house nonetheless. And David played a key role on four Cowboys teams, earning second-team All-Big 12 honors in 2007 as a senior.
Orange was no longer startling to the eye in the Koenig house in Cape Coral, it was the color of choice. And a color carrying pride.
Still, Daniel had to make his own way. No pressure from big brothers or mom and dad. He was a coveted line prospect with choices.
Doug said he might have provided a nudge, more of a confirmation of a potential fit, but that was all. The decision had to be Daniel's.
Cowboys offensive line coach Joe Wickline asked for one thing, a chance to host Daniel's final school visit. And that became the clincher.
“The experience of seeing my brothers play, seeing how they lived off campus, it was all really cool,” Daniel said. “And then seeing them go on and work after college, that was all important.
“I looked at many other schools. I had no pressure from my brothers or parents, it was my decision. The coaches. The fans. It's just an awesome place here.”
Wickline was counting on many factors – the long relationship with the family; his own work with David; the familiarity.
“Continuity is the big word,” Wickline said. “First, this school, Oklahoma State, Stillwater, Payne County, the fans, how all this all works. Growing up, this is all he knows.
“Secondly, we're the same coaching staff, with Coach Gundy being here and me being here with Dave and Daniel, there's another kind of continuity, kind of how I work. So when he gets here, he knows what to expect. And I know what to expect, what kind of guy, basically.
“They're not all the same, everyone's different, but they're kind of cut from the same mold and they do the right things and it's a joy to see those guys get better.”
With another OSU season approaching and another son in place, the Koenigs are preparing again for more frequent trips to Stillwater. Bob estimates he's seen half of his sons' games through the years, including all the bowl games. Cindy makes it to even more.
The trips will continue for three more seasons.
Doug and Erin recently had their first child, a son of course: Max Robert Koenig.
“Coach Gundy will have to wait a few more years for the next Koenig,” Bob said. “He's a pretty big boy, too.”