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Former OU player Calvin Thibodeaux is back with the program as an assistant coach
In just over a month or so on the job, Calvin Thibodeaux already has forged a bit of a reputation as a dynamic recruiter, particularly in and around his hometown of Houston.
Best of all, when his recruiting work as Oklahoma’s new defensive line coach is finished in H-Town, he can drop by his mother’s house for a serious home-cooked meal — especially her homemade macaroni and cheese.
“It don’t matter what you put with it,” said Thibodeaux, “but with that dish, you got a chance with me.”
The NCAA hasn’t weighed in yet on whether Caroline Jackson’s delectable side dish would equate to a recruiting violation if any Houston prospects should show up for dinner, but hey, it might be worth the risk.
Just don’t ask “Coach Thibbs” for the recipe.
“My mom would kill me,” he said.
And Bob Stoops would not be happy with that. Not with all the good work that lies ahead for the Sooners’ newest assistant coach.
Thibodeaux grew up in Houston, but he’s back home at OU.
A Sooner defensive end from 2002-06, Thibodeaux earned second-team All-Big 12 accolades in 2004, when he had 44 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and 10 quarterback sacks.
He was a key figure in the Sooners’ remarkable run during the mid-2000s, helping OU win three Big 12 championships and receive invitations to the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Holiday and Fiesta Bowls — two of which were BCS national championship games.
Thibodeaux knows what successful Oklahoma football looks like because it’s in his DNA.
“We’re excited to have Calvin back in our program,” said Stoops. “He’s a longtime Sooner and was an excellent player for us. He’s gained great defensive line experience coming up through the coaching ranks and was being sought after by other programs. He’ll provide great leadership and direction to our players and will make big contributions to our defensive scheme.”
Thibodeaux coached last year at Kansas and was previously at Tulsa, Dartmouth and Navarro Junior College. He got his start in 2008 as a graduate assistant at Houston.
But he never stopped being a Sooner. That’s why he’s so humbled to be back.
“Oh, absolutely,” said Thibodeaux. “I mean, it was emotional, honestly, when I got the call. When I was in the interview, I was like, ‘You know, this is serious. I got a chance.’ This is something that I thought, ‘Man, if I work my butt off, maybe one day it was a possibility.’ So to actually get the call, man, it was overwhelming.
“It means everything.”
Thibodeaux is back where he’s always wanted to be and he’s not about to take it for granted.
“I truly believe that God is opening up doors for me and it’s nothing but favor,” he said. “It could have been someone probably more qualified or someone that had more experience, but God had put me here and I’m excited about it. I just want to give full credit to him and do a good job. It’s truly a blessing.”
Thibodeaux describes his coaching style as demanding fundamental soundness and high effort. No busts, no loafs.
“I would tell you, 80 percent of my coaching style came from my playing days here,” he said. “Basically just making no excuses and finding a way to get it done — that tough mentality. You get that from this program. Not making excuses, knowing what’s required, and finding a way to get it done no matter what the circumstance is.
“Those experiences, having an opportunity to play in Big 12 championships and play in all the BCS bowl games, I want to bring those experiences with me. I don’t want to say that to be cocky, but those experiences helped me as a coach. I knew what it took to get there, and now I want to make sure that my players understand what it takes to get there.”
Thibodeaux, 32, worked on pass-rush drills with Jackie Shipp, but his position coaches at defensive end were Bobby Jack Wright and Chris Wilson. They drilled into him perfect footwork and proper hand positioning, two fundamental tenets for a solid defensive end.
Thibodeaux’s players have gotten the same training at all his stops and so far this spring in Norman.
He said coming home to OU has been more than as a teacher. He’s also been a student, soaking up as many minute details as he can because Oklahoma’s defense has evolved so significantly since his playing days under Mike Stoops and Brent Venables.
“It’s a different defense,” said Thibodeaux. “You know, we were a 4-3, and now we’re a 3-4 with a mix of 4-3. So it’s different. The techniques are different. But you know, some of the things they were doing, I was teaching at other places. So it hasn’t been that huge of a learning curve.”
Before Bob Stoops called him home, Thibodeaux earned his coaching stripes under an impressive lineup of mentors, from Kevin Sumlin at Houston to Nick Bobek at Navarro (now at Central Oklahoma) to Buddy Teevens at Dartmouth to Bill Young and Bill Blankenship at Tulsa.
“Honestly, it’s hard to single out any one stop because all of ‘em have really helped shape and mold the man I am today,” said Thibodeaux. “From getting my start with Coach Sumlin to taking a junior college job with Nick Bobek, the hard work; with Coach Sumlin it was just how to treat people; working with Buddy Teevens, perception was reality — I remember learning that from him — with Bill Young, it was being truly invested in your kids and being a transitional coach as far as not only just football but putting your arm around them and making sure their spiritual, mental and physical, making sure that guys were growing. I learned that from him. He had a big impact on my coaching philosophy in my time at Kansas. Even learning how to become a better recruiter.
(Editor's Note: This story appears in the 2016 Spring Football issue of Sooner Spectator. To read more or subscribe, call 450-364-4515)