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Josh Heupel Q&A
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Offensive coordinator talks OU football
Josh Heupel has been an important part of Oklahoma’s resurgence during the Bob Stoops era. The former quarterback guided the Sooners to the 2000 national championship in Stoops’ second season and has spent 10 of the past 11 years on the coaching staff.
Heupel transferred from Snow College and earned the Sooners’ starting quarterback position. He led the program to its first bowl game in five years in 1999 and captured consensus All-American honors while being the Heisman Trophy runner-up during the 2000 campaign.
After short stints with the Miami Dolphins and the Green Bay Packers, Heupel retired as a player and joined OU’s staff as a graduate assistant in 2003. After spending one year as Arizona’s tight ends coach, he returned as the Sooners’ quarterbacks coach, mentoring Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford.
Huepel has shared offensive coordinator duties with Jay Norvell during the past three seasons. The pair works on the offensive strategy each week and Huepel calls the plays on game day.
The 35-year-old is developing a solid pedigree as a coordinator. His unit finished among the top 12 nationally in total offense in 2011 and 2012.
This year, he’s working to develop a new quarterback in Blake Bell while installing a different type of offense than worked by previous pocket passers like Bradford and Landry Jones.
Heupel was asked earlier this season about how much life has differed in year three as an offensive coordinator compared to 2011.
“I think you’re different and you grow and you learn from your mistakes and it’s no different than a player,” Heupel said. “We come back on Sunday and you watch the tape and you try to learn what you would do differently, what you would have anticipated going back on it and you try and put your kids in a better position the next week.”
Heupel, who graduated from Aberdeen (S.D.) High School, now considers himself an Oklahoman. He’s developed the “14 Foundation,” a charitable organization that provides for community families during the holidays and holds summer camps. He’s joining his wife, Dawn, in raising their children Hannah and Jace in his college town and his parents recently moved to the area.
SS: When you got here in 1999, did you really expect that you’d still be here 14-15 years later?
Heupel: No. I don’t think you ever expect to be someplace off and on as long as I’ve been here. But obviously I came here because I believed in Coach Stoops’ vision and I believed in the opportunity to win a championship – a conference and national championship. It is things that we chase every year here.
SS: You have had the chance to play and coach with Coach Stoops and he’s about to become the school’s winningest coach. How have you seen him develop over the years?
Heupel: He just continues to mature. He’s always been a great leader and always has been able to see his vision to recruits and the players he’s signed. He’s as demanding as ever of what he expects his players to do on a daily basis. I think, as much as anything, he’s continued to develop strong relationships with his players and interacting with them outside of the game.
SS: How have you seen yourself grow as an offensive coordinator over the years?
Heupel: You just continue to get better and try to put your kids in the right position. The more you see defenses and how they try to stop you or game plan you, you get a little bit better feel of anticipating what people are trying to do week-to-week.
SS: Any advice that has stuck with you over the years?
Heupel: I don’t think there’s any one thing. I’ve been around a lot of great coaches and, at the end of the day, the thing that they’ve all done and really the thing that Coach Stoops’ preaches is being consistent in who and what you are every single day. The kids see and feel that energy and that’s extremely important.
What’s it like to see the players you work with move on with their lives?
There’s nothing better than seeing a young player develop and have an opportunity to go play at the next level, the quarterbacks who we’ve worked with and the ton of great players here. But just as exciting is seeing a kid come into your program and making an impact. Whatever it might be – on and off the field – and then graduate and ultimately be successful in life. That’s what college football is all about.
SS: Do you have aspirations of being a head football coach someday?
Heupel: Yeah, absolutely, I want to be a head coach one day. But I’ll tell you what. The thing you stay focused on is the job here. It truly is something that you can only take one day at a time. I really enjoy being a part of this program. We have a great coaching staff and a lot of great young people in the program.
SS: Do you feel like you’re an Oklahoman now?
Heupel: Yeah, I am an Oklahoman (he said while laughing). My sister lives here with her family. She came to school here. My mom and dad actually live down here now as well. I’ve been in the community for a long time and have met a lot of great people and have made a lot of great friends. So this is home. Absolutely.
SS: What about the 14 Foundation and what it has been able to accomplish over the years?
Heupel: You don’t think that you’re going to be involved with a charity like that and 14 years later, from where it started, you don’t foresee it taking the shape that it has. It has been one of the great joys of my life and my family’s life as well. My wife does a lot of work with it and we’ve formed a lot of great partnerships that have allowed us to expand the base of kids that we reach during the entire year with the Thanksgiving drive and the Christmas drive and camps during the summer for the kids.
SS: You don’t have much spare time, but when you do have spare time, what do you like to do?
Heupel: I tell you what, between coaching football and what we do with the foundation, there isn’t much spare time. But when I have it, I like to travel with my family and just be around my wife and my kids. My wife and kids are extremely important. It’s tough during the season because you are gone from them for such a long portion of the season. Just traveling with them and having a lot of fun.
SS: How special a fraternity is it being a former Oklahoma quarterback?
Heupel: It is special. In my office, I have a list of all the conference championship quarterbacks dating back to when Coach (Barry) Switzer was here. It’s a great lineage of players who have made a tremendous impact on the field. But it is also guys that have been great ambassadors for the university and for the state and done a lot of positive things for the game of football as well.
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