In high school Bob was a 5'11", 160-pound safety who specialized in blowing up tight ends who outweighed him by 50 pounds. At Iowa he started for four years and twice was named All-Big Ten despite getting knocked cold at least half a dozen times and playing his last 2� seasons with a partially torn ACL in his left knee that was never repaired. He never allowed the coaching staff to time him in the 40. "I didn't want to know, and they didn't want to know," he says. Brashier, who coached Stoops for his entire college career, says, "He was tough as a boot, one of the toughest we've ever had. Didn't matter how fast he could run." While Mike would get NFL tryouts three years later, Bob never considered pro football. "I knew I had used up everything my body had to offer," he says. "It was time for something else."
That something else was coaching. He worked at Iowa and Kent State before landing at Kansas State. There he helped install an attacking defense that was the cornerstone of the Wildcats' remarkable ascent. "We had one defense that we nicknamed 'punt return,' because that's what it looked like, only one guy back," says Thomas Randolph of the Indianapolis Colts, who played position cornerback at K-State from 1990 to '93. "I got to the NFL, and coaches started talking about zone blitzes. I told guys up there that we were zone blitzing back at Kansas State, we just didn't call it that."
Oklahoma wasn't the first school that attempted to hire Stoops as a head coach ( Minnesota and Iowa tried unsuccessfully), but it was the one that presented the best opportunity. Stoops has borrowed from the styles of both his head coaching mentors, although not in equal proportion. From Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, a legendary workaholic who would rather coach than eat, he learned discipline and preparation. Yet he worships Spurrier, who can leave a loss at the office. "At Florida the football program was a family," says Bob's wife, Carol. "I'm glad Bob was able to experience that before he became a head coach."
Spurrier made Stoops a head-coach-in-training, giving him his own postgame press conferences and staying away from defensive meetings. He also taught Stoops that there's no crime in taking the time to jog at lunchtime and go home to eat dinner with your family. After a recent midafternoon run, Stoops stood sweating outside Memorial Stadium. " Coach Spurrier is as competitive as anybody, but when it's over, it's over," said Stoops. "He's going to live his life, and football is part of it but not all of it."
There's an epilogue to Stoops's association with Kansas State. Stoops says Snyder was angry that Stoops got not only his brother Mike but also defensive assistants Mark Mangino and Brent Venables to join him at Oklahoma, essentially cleaning out the K-State defensive staff (and their hard-won recruiting contacts). Neither Bob nor Mike has talked to Snyder since. "I don't know if anybody ever leaves Coach Snyder on good terms," says Mike. "He simply doesn't accept that you would leave. But then again, there's no having a personal relationship with him even when you're there."
Bob isn't looking back. "The fact is I gave everything I had to Kansas State when I was there," he says. "Now I'm obligated to do the same thing for Oklahoma. Period."
Oklahomans understand. Last fall, after eating dinner in a downtown Norman restaurant, Stoops walked into the twilight and a car screeched to a halt in front of him. The driver bounced excitedly from his seat and grabbed Stoops's hand, pumping furiously. "Just want you to know you're doing a great job and we're all glad you're a Sooner," the man said, eyes wide and full of hope. Stoops can relate. Back when he played in high school he wore silver shoes, just like his hero, Joe Washington.