OU recruiting coordinator Bruce Kittle a man of many travels

by Jenni Carlson Modified: November 25, 2010 at 11:48 am •  Published: November 24, 2010

NORMAN — Bruce Kittle worked on high-dollar cases for big-time corporations, struck agreements for massive environmental cleanups, sat between murderers and their victims' families as they tried to reconcile, went to seminary, worked in prisons and pastored a church.

Now, he sends letters to teenagers in hopes of convincing them to play football at Oklahoma.

Kittle is the on-campus recruiting coordinator for the Sooners, and creating correspondence to send recruits is just one of the wannabe coach's duties.

A fiftysomething who has been at the height of not one but several professions is now working behind the scenes of college football. A former standout on the Iowa football team is now operating under the radar of even the most die-hard Sooner fans.

And he loves it.

“I'm very grateful to be where I'm at with the opportunity I have,” Kittle said. “Our defensive coordinator at Iowa, Bill Brashier ... he would always tell us, ‘If you could go do anything else and be happy, you should go do it.'”

During a week Oklahomans are fixated on one very important football game, this story is a reminder of what's important. On a day Americans pause and count their blessings, no one is more thankful than Bruce Kittle.

Those who know him best say he's never been happier.

“I always felt in my heart ... his heart was in coaching,” his longtime friend Bob Stoops said. “I felt it all along. I never said that to him because he has to find his way and do in his heart what he feels like doing, but I've always felt that he'd be a good coach.”

Kittle's daughter, Emma, said, “He smiles all the time. It is so much fun to be around him.”

So, why is a guy who's doing college football's version of grunt work so happy? Why is he so grateful to be where he is even if it's not where he ultimately wants to be?

‘A FABULOUS COMPETITOR'

Bruce Kittle was going to be a football coach.

Growing up in Cedar Falls, Iowa, he became a multisport star. He went to the University of Iowa on a football scholarship, but the offensive lineman also wrestled for the legendary Hawkeyes.

“He's a fabulous competitor,” said Stoops, who played football at Iowa with Kittle.

Kittle's senior year, the offensive lineman was co-captain of Iowa's 1981 Rose Bowl team. He then went to work as a graduate assistant for legendary Hawkeyes coach Hayden Fry. He was learning from one of the best, he was preparing for the right opportunity, and after the Hawkeyes played in the 1986 Rose Bowl, he got a job offer.

“South Dakota or North Dakota or something like that,” Kittle remembered.

He knew the assistant's gig would be the first of many steps and various moves. He and his wife, Jan, were planning to start a family, and she had nine sisters who all lived in Iowa.

Could they leave the state and start the vagabond coaching lifestyle?

Sure.

They just weren't sure that they wanted to.

When Kittle got an acceptance letter from the law school at Iowa, he knew what he wanted to do.

Goodbye, football practice.

Hello, law practice.

MINISTRY CALLS

Bruce Kittle was on his way to being one heck of a lawyer.

After graduating in the top 10 percent of his law school class at Iowa, he landed a prestigious clerkship with the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. He went to work for one of the most respected firms in Iowa, then left to work for one of the largest firms in Wisconsin.

All the while, he was working on bigger and bigger cases with more and more dollar signs.

“I couldn't have afforded me,” he said.

But after a close friend died of lung cancer, Kittle started to question his place in the world. Why was he spending his time moving money from one massive corporation to another? What good was it doing mankind?

Then while driving to work one winter day, he heard the call to ministry.

He figured he'd misunderstood.

He didn't come from a particularly spiritual family, after all, so the idea of going into the ministry seemed wacky. Plus, he had a wife and kids and a mortgage, and he was only two years from making partner. Surely, he wasn't supposed to go into ministry.

Not long after, Kittle was eating lunch when a Catholic priest sat down nearby. He wanted to talk to the man and ask him about this call to ministry, but he couldn't figure out what to say.

Instead, the priest approached.

“Are you considering going into the ministry?” he asked Kittle. “It is a wonderful and rewarding life. You will never regret it.”

Kittle started seminary a few months later.

AN EXPLORER

Continue reading this story on the...

by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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