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Oklahoma tornadoes: Sooner football teammates, coaches united again, in tragedy

OKLAHOMA FOOTBALL — As OU football teammates, Corey Callens and Rodney Rideaux experienced the love and admiration of Sooner Nation. Now that they're united by the Moore tornado tragedy, the Oklahoma coaches are feeling the love even deeper.
by Jason Kersey Modified: May 22, 2013 at 6:00 pm •  Published: May 22, 2013
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photo - OU vs Indiana State football. OU defense stops Matt Nelson. 10 Torrance Marshall, 4 Pee Wee Woods, 92 Corey Callens, 45 Rodney Rideau
OU vs Indiana State football. OU defense stops Matt Nelson. 10 Torrance Marshall, 4 Pee Wee Woods, 92 Corey Callens, 45 Rodney Rideau

MOORE — Corey Callens often teases Rodney Rideaux about what is virtually the one thing — the side of Interstate 35 each lives on in Moore — separating the two OU assistant coaches.

“I tell him, ‘You stay on your side of town; I'll stay on mine,'” Callens said with a laugh.

Callens and Rideaux were OU teammates in the late 1990s. They're both fathers; Callens and his wife have three young children, and Rideaux has a 3-year-old daughter.

They worked on Oklahoma's strength staff together from 2007 until this spring, when Callens resigned his position to take a graduate assistant job, hoping to kick-start an on-field coaching career.

A recent tragedy added another layer to their strong bond. The devastating tornado that ripped through Moore on Monday severely damaged Rideaux's west-side home, then ripped across I-35 and destroyed Callens' house.

Both Callens and Rideaux are left picking up the pieces — literally — but also have experienced undying compassion and generosity from friends, families, co-workers and complete strangers.

“Honestly, it's one of the worst experiences, but one of the greatest realizations to know that so many people want to help,” Callens said. “Not just people I know. I've had people all day coming up here while I'm going through the rubble, trying to find things, offering water, asking to help.”

‘I'M JUST GRATEFUL'

Callens was breaking down film at the OU football offices Monday afternoon, but also keeping his eye on the weather.

“I grew up in Oklahoma, and I've always heard the sirens and heard the warnings,” said Callens, a former defensive end from Jenks. “I never thought that I would be in the middle of one, or my house would be. I just thought we were playing the drill again. It got me this time. Wiped me out.”

His wife and three kids were safe at Callens' mother-in-law's home, so they didn't know the extent of the damage until they arrived Monday evening. Because of a gas leak, the area was evacuated and Callens couldn't return until the next day.

Tuesday morning, as firefighter and former OU offensive tackle Chris Messner worked on Callens' property, he discovered a powerful memento: Callens' game ball from Oklahoma's 2007 Red River Rivalry victory.

After Callens arrived, he was overwhelmed by the support he received from the OU athletic department. Some former teammates and OU players arrived Wednesday to help Callens go through the rubble.

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by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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