STILLWATER — Life on the recruiting trail for a college football coach can be a lonely one.
And yet, Joe DeForest and Dana Holgorsen just kept on bumping into each other.
The pair first met more than 10 years ago while recruiting the Houston area, often going after the same prospects. DeForest had recently become an Oklahoma State assistant, while Holgorsen was an assistant at Texas Tech.
Because they saw each other almost every day, they started eating meals together. Staying in the same hotels. Company is company.
A mutual respect evolved into a friendship.
DeForest's primary reason for leaving OSU after 11 seasons to become either the defensive coordinator or a co-defensive coordinator at West Virginia is to advance his career because of his desire to someday become a head coach. But the move will also reunite DeForest with Holgorsen —his former mate on the road, who became his colleague in Stillwater for one season, and before Holgorsen took the head-coaching position at WVU.
“In coaching, there's a lot that has to do with friendship,” DeForest said. “But he also has to be able to respect what that person does in order to hire him. I respected what (Holgorsen) did, that's why we hired him here.”
“Here” meaning OSU. When head coach Mike Gundy began looking for an offensive coordinator after the 2009 season, DeForest recommended Holgorsen, who at the time held that position at Houston.
Holgorsen got the job and installed his throw-first, spread offense designed to fit Brandon Weeden's strong arm and array of weapons. The Cowboys flourished in 2010, ranking third in the nation in scoring offense (44.2 points per game) and total offense (520.2 yards per game) and second in passing offense (345.8 yards per game).
Meanwhile, DeForest's special teams produced the Lou Groza Award winner in kicker Dan Bailey and the All-Big 12 first-team punter in Quinn Sharp.
Yet Holgorsen's OSU debut immediately earned him a head-coaching gig, and DeForest and Holgorsen experienced separate success in 2011.
Holgorsen led WVU to the Big East title and a dominating 70-33 victory over Clemson in the Orange Bowl in his first season as head coach.
DeForest helped OSU to its first outright conference title before his pupil, Quinn Sharp, drilled the game-winning field goal in a wild Fiesta Bowl.
Two years after DeForest helped Holgorsen land a job, Holgorsen is now returning the favor with a chance for DeForest to call plays on defense for the first time in his career.
Their friendship is not the sole reason DeForest is leaving OSU. Yet the mutual respect — combined with the opportunity — certainly played a role.
“I'm not going to West Virginia because of our friendship,” DeForest said. “I'm going to West Virginia to further my career and because I think we have a chance to be successful.
“I think (Holgorsen is) a tremendous young mind, and I'm excited about being a part of the program.”