Though she is not a coach for the Oklahoma State football team, Judy Gundy’s influence is evident on the Cowboys players.
As OSU head coach, Mike Gundy harkens back to lessons he learned from his mother while he guides his young men on the gridiron.
“We have 132 players on our team, and things that my mother instilled in me, I’m instilling in them every day,” Gundy said.
Gundy was born and raised in a football family in Midwest City, Okla. Along with his older sister, Kari, and younger brother, Cale, Mike was drawn to athletics, including baseball and wrestling. But football was the sport of choice in the Gundy household, where Judy and her husband, Ray, used to hustle back and forth between practices and Friday night games.
“She was the glue that kept everything together,” Gundy said of his mother. “Some of the most powerful influences in all of our lives can come from people that are at home. We live in a society that builds up heroes of great athletes and business people that make a lot of money, but real success are things that happen at home, and that’s what we were able to get at home.”
The Gundy boys both starred as quarterbacks at Midwest City High School, with Mike delivering a state title for the Bombers in 1985 and Cale following suit in 1988. Mike headed to Stillwater and was a four-year starting QB at Oklahoma State from 1986 to 1989, where he set school records for passing. Cale elected to go to Norman to become signal caller for Oklahoma, and in four years as a starter for the Sooners he set his own passing marks.
Playing quarterback in a football obsessed state like Oklahoma came with its share of pressure for the Gundy boys, but Judy was always there for her sons.
“She wasn’t soft on us, but she also understood when we needed support, when we needed some compassion,” Mike said. “There was really a fine line there, and I think that she just had a special gift of instilling toughness but also the compassion that made us trust her and what she thought and what she said to us.”
Upon completion of his playing career, Mike immediately entered the coaching ranks. He began coaching at his alma mater before stops at Baylor and Maryland. He returned to Stillwater in 2001 and has served as head coach since 2005, winning 84 games and one Big 12 title.
Coaching seemed a natural occupation for Mike once he finished playing, but Judy knew her son would never reach his full potential until he started his own family.
“My mother told me, ‘When you have your own children, you’ll understand that the young men you’re coaching are somebody’s’ sons and you’ll be a much better coach,’” Mike said. “I never understood it until I started having my own children, and she was exactly right. You have a compassion for young people, different than when you have your own. You’re able to see things in them that relate to the people you’re coaching.”
Mike and his wife, Kristen, have three boys, Gavin, Gunnar and Gage. Mike said each of his children have their own personalities and strengths and weaknesses.
“That helps me with the players that we have on our team,” Mike said. “It helps me look for the best in them and realize that ultimately in team games we can only compete against ourselves and try to maximize the talent that we have and be the very best we can be.”
As Mike has done at OSU, Cale returned to his alma mater and serves as the running backs coach for Oklahoma. He and his wife, Kristi, have a son, K.C., and a daughter, Caitlin.
Kari Gundy married former Oklahoma State baseball pitcher Jim Long, and the couple has four daughters: Lillie, Savannah, Karolyne and Madisyn. Savannah and Karolyne each played softball at Oklahoma while Madisyn currently plays at Oklahoma State.
With family on both sides of the Bedlam rivalry, Ray and Judy find themselves wearing both orange and crimson on game days. Mike said he still finds time to speak with his parents every day, and his mother is always there to give him advice.
“The mothers of the family have been the glue because the men in our families work hard and live very stressful lives,” Mike said. “Sometimes we don’t keep our composure and get upset. My sister and my mom and the wives, they’ve been the glue of our family. My mom has kind of led the way with that. She keeps everybody together no matter what.”