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March 16, 2012Mike Stoops isn't the only defensive blast from the past taking up residence in Norman these days. He's also joined by Sooner All-American, former Thorpe Award winner and former Nagurski Award winner, Derrick Strait.
Strait is making his return to the Oklahoma football program as a member of the football faculty. Right now he's serving as a quality control assistant for Bob Stoops as he awaits a spot on the staff as a graduate assistant next August.
"I'm just happy to be started and getting my feet wet and getting the ball rolling," said Strait, who was in attendance at OU's pro day this week. "I just had a feeling I wanted to be back around football. The best way to do that is coaching, so it was just natural."
Strait made a call to Bob Stoops asking for advice on getting into the business. He wanted to know if Stoops knew of any openings.
Before he knew it, he was in Norman, getting ready to begin his coaching career.
Stoops is entering his fourteenth season at Oklahoma. His first great quarterback at OU, Josh Heupel, is now his co-offensive coordinator.
Now one of his first great defensive players will start a new legacy on the defensive side of the ball.
"It's exciting to be back around football and Oklahoma football in general," said Strait.
It's only natural for Stoops - who himself served as a volunteer assistant at Iowa following his playing days - to make these types of opportunities available for former players.
Stoops is also bringing former tight end Joe Jon Finley and former backup quarterback Joey Halzle on board as graduate assistants.
But few can match Strait's credentials as a former player at OU.
The difference in Strait's inclusion, is he'll be matched up working directly for his former defensive coordinator and secondary coach.
"Nothing's changed and he's still the same guy," said Strait of Mike Stoops. "Mike's going to want the best out of you and expect you to go out and do your job."
Strait attends practices right now as he is already enrolled in graduate school. He says it's been a little strange being on a practice field around Mike Stoops.
"Just seeing him get after guys and in the meeting room and out on the field, everything feels the same," he said. "Then you realize he's not talking to me. I just have to regroup and realize he's talking to someone else. It's just different."
Strait continues to familiarize himself with the current roster and looks forward to taking on a more active coaching role next fall.
With Heupel already becoming a big part of Stoops' success in the past and the future, Strait is looking forward to working with the defense and ushering that side of the ball into the future.
Even if things are a bit more complicated than when he was a player at Oklahoma.
"There's a lot of different offenses nowadays from what it was back then," recalled Strait. "Back then there were more power and run teams and it wasn't as spread out. You've got to have guys who can get out there and make plays for you."
You've also got to have guys that can coach. Stoops is banking on Strait to be one of those guys next season.