He has an amazing mullet and hunts rattlesnakes. His big splash came more than a decade ago in a rant that was celebrated millions of times on YouTube. He coaches football too.
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has become one of the sport's most celebrated personalities and coaches. After gauging serious interest from Tennessee to fill its coaching vacancy, reportedly being offered a six-year, $42 million deal to take over the program, Gundy turned down the opportunity in order to stay at his current post, which he has held for more than a decade. He confirmed his intentions to return in a tweet.
Bleacher Report interviewed Gundy for more than 40 minutes back in August heading into the season. He spoke about his time in Stillwater, his recruiting mentality, how his mullet has impacted Oklahoma State's business and how his infamous rant paved the way for program success moving forward.
BR: It's almost unheard of to be at the same school for 13 consecutive years. Are you able to sit back and appreciate how rare that is in the current climate?
MG: Yes, I have. But really just in the last year or so. As I get older, I start to slow down and smell the roses. I've always been a Type A guy and wanted to see what next, but I did finally sit back and start to think about how far we've come.
I kind of realized that I need to enjoy it, and that's why I've been able to relax some and have some personality with the media and press. That's really who I am. I'm a very playful person. We have a very disciplined program here, but I want the players to have fun and relax.
I signed a new contract this year, a five-year rollover that essentially rolls over every year in December. That allowed me to look at it like this: Unless something crazy happens, I'm going to coach here until I retire. There's a comfort with that.
BR: It's not often you hear coaches reflecting on their careers this honestly during their tenure, especially with so much still ahead. Did that contract and your maturation just finally allow you to be yourself?
MG: It's coach talk. Coaches are afraid that their players will hear them say that. I kind of went through a transition a year ago and thought the best opportunity to market our program was to be upfront, honest and talk about what's going on.
It's the same way I am as a coach. Since 1986, I've been in Stillwater as a player, coach or head coach for all but five years of my life. I have one son that has graduated from here in high school, another son who is a sophomore and a seventh-grader. My family and kids are important to me, and for them to be able to stay in the same school system in this profession, well, hell, I am walking on cloud nine.
Those are the things you worry about as a coach. How many times am I going to move? Will my kids adjust in school? All of that is over with for me. Now I can devote my time to my family and my team, and that is very comforting.
BR: Do you feel a bond to Stillwater, Oklahoma? For as long as you have been there, it has to be a part of you.
MG: I can run over here to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription, and if I forget my money they'll still give it to me and pay them on the way home. I've got a long-term bond here with the community and these people. That relationship is way more important than anything else, and we have that relationship here.
My wife is really involved with the community and charities here. Those things are really important to us, and you just don't let go of something like that. That all falls into the comfort zone that I have of being here in Stillwater.
BR: When you aren't in football, what are some of the things you like to do in your free time to get away from things?
MG: I live on a farm on a 110-acre ranch. We farm the ranch. We raise Bermuda hay, and last year we baled about 490 bales of hay. We have cattle and sheep and horses. I also have an extensive collection of chickens, and we raise rare chickens and collect eggs.
I don't play golf. Prior to having my first son 21 years ago, I played golf all the time. Once we had him, with the demand I had at work, I couldn't explain being gone for six hours to play golf. I haven't played in 21 years.
My hobby is my farm and my kids. They play travel baseball and football and basketball. I'm either at work or I am with them. Maybe four days out of the year my wife and I will go away somewhere.
BR: This is the mullet part of the interview. Have you been surprised by the response your haircut has generated?
MG: Yes, I am surprised. This happened by accident. The fans and players grasped onto it, and then I had to go with it. At the end of last season and into the offseason, there was more pressure on me when it came to my hair than there was with the team.
But it's the world we live in. In my job, we have to target 16-, 17- and 18-year-old kids for recruiting. That's the market. When we make uniforms or put something up in our stadium, that's who we are trying to sell. Everything that I do now is marketing Oklahoma State football, hoping to get us more good football players.
Some friends did me a favor and took me snake hunting with my 12-year-old. I took some pictures and put it on Twitter just to show support for them, and I didn't realize it would blow up the way it did. I was trying to help the two guys out who took me. But once it happened, we had to build on it.
There are just certain things we have to do at Oklahoma State, at least in my opinion, in order to market our product. I can't walk into a high school with a clover on my shirt that says I'm from Notre Dame, and the kid's just going to commit because I have that clover. I don't have that luck, and that's not who we are right now. You can sit back and complain about it, or you can find a solution to the problem. We can't just sit around and wait for it to happen.
BR: Back to the hair—is this something you take a great deal of care in because of the exposure?
MG: Oh, yes. Now I have to be real careful with it. The young lady who cuts it texts me all the time telling me to get it trimmed up because people are complaining about it. It has become a big deal.
BR: It's always felt like a matter of time before a major college football program would come swoop in and get you. Are you just that content where you are?
MG: I've been here so long that I've become a part of this school and it's a part of me. It's not that I want to retire here in a certain number of years and have everyone talk about how Mike Gundy built football at Oklahoma State. That's not really what drives me.
When I don't have the energy to do this anymore, I want the next guy to come in here and have an unbelievable job. That's what drives me. That's my goal.
BR: Beyond marketing, how are you able to put out a quality team basically yearly in a place where it hasn't been typical?
MG: We've never changed our core values and what we believe in. We're going to be unselfish, play disciplined football and be accountable to each other.
There'll be good years and some tough years. But the core system doesn't change. What has happened over a period of time is the players on our current team feel obligated to keep it the way it is for the guys who got it to this point.
For me, selfishly as a head coach, the one thing that is important to me is that after four years, when a player leaves our program, that he is productive in society. That's what I need. For lack of a better term, I'm not into coaching a bunch of assh---s. I want you to go out into the world and be productive, whatever it is you might do. I don't care what you want to do; I want you to leave here and give back to others. If you do that, then we've won. Period.
We all know we have to win games or they change coaches. But if a young man leaves our program and six years later he has a decent job that makes him happy and maybe a family and he can look at me and tell he's glad he came here, that means it was successful.
Here's the deal. We need young men to go out into society in this country and be productive. We're going the other direction, and I tell them that all the time. I don't care if you're white or black or Polynesian or rich or poor or country or city. It doesn't make any difference to me.
We need people who will make an impact, and we're in the business of putting those men out. That's why we win games. But we have guys who aren't worried about themselves.
I tell them that in recruiting. I tell them if they're not comfortable with that, they need to go somewhere else. And that's OK. We probably lose good players every year because they can't fit here. But you need to know coming in what you're getting into.
BR: Is that message easier to sell for you now that your program has had the kind of success it has had?
MG: No question. Coaches will tell you that we were that way from Day 1, but I don't believe that. From Day 1, you need to get your feet on the ground. Because if you don't win in the first two or three years, you're going to get fired.
BR: When you came in, you delivered the now infamous "I'm a man, I'm 40" speech. It's been 10 years. Have you watched it all, and what's your connection to a moment that defined you before you were defined by your success?
MG: My 15-year-old will mimic it every now and then, and he's gotten really good at it. But I don't see it as much anymore. It's been 10 years.
But there's a few ways to look at it. At my age, I'd be way too tired and patient to do that now. There's no way I would take the energy to do that again. And if I had to do it again, I would've just gotten behind closed doors and had the conversation.
In many ways, though, it actually changed this program from a recruiting standpoint. There were a lot of people who said, "I like that coach. I want to play for him." I think my record was like 13-16 when that happened. The record has changed drastically since.
BR: So you actually view that as not just some media encounter? To you, it served as more to your football program?
MG: There's no question. Now, I should have gotten free stock on YouTube. I put that company into action. That was about the time it was starting to explode, and they should've fired me a few free stocks.
YouTube took off after that rant. Now it happens all the time, but that was one of the first true viral moments in the sport.
BR: Does it still come up when you talk to parents and recruits?
MG: The players don't bring it up because they were all eight years old when it happened. But the mommas and the daddies and the grandmas bring it up. I have not gone through a recruiting season without a parent or grandparent bringing that up.
The grandmas may not know who I am or where I coach, but they know I was the crazy guy defending one of the players.