Ask a Sooner fan who is the biggest name in OU football history. Sure, there's plenty of contenders. But one man stands out among the rest: Coach Barry Switzer.
How does a poor young man from the Mississippi Delta become an Oklahoma football legend? Ask coach and he'll stop you right there.
“I’ve said if you make me out to be more than I am it’s your fault, and if I ever begin to believe it it’s my fault,” Coach Switzer told News 9’s Dean Blevins.
A humble man from humble beginnings. He's never made it a secret that his father was a bootlegger, selling liquor to make ends meet. But behind those sales his father was building up the lives of young men.
“These kids would come up to the house and I’d say ‘dad what are they talking to you about, I know you’re not selling them whiskey’ and he said ‘no they’re talking to me about going to school,’” said Switzer.
Coach took those lessons to heart and held on to them on his path to the University of Oklahoma.
“I was recruiting the best players in all positions, regardless of who they were,” said Switzer.
Switzer's Sooners were family, and nothing was going to come between the king and his players.
“Through the years we had some negative things said to us, but I didn’t pay much attention to it. They’re just like molecules in the universe. How many are out there? They’re incidental,” said Switzer.
It's that kind of thinking that earned Switzer three national championships, the highest winning percentage of any Oklahoma coach, and a Super Bowl ring. And it's the kind of kindness that brought him to his longest-running coaching gig with Special Olympics Oklahoma.
“I’ve led the teams out on the field, and we saw Prince at the Metrodome in Minnesota. I was leading the team on the field and I’ll never forget this special Olympian, who’s a buddy of mine, he said ‘Boy coach this is big time!’” Switzer recalled.
Those young athletes still have a hold on coach nearly a half a century later. Switzer said it's in the little moments like that where he built his own life message.
“Sometimes we have less than a minute to leave a lasting impression and you can be arrogant, aloof, you can be all these things, or you can be nice. And you know what? Nice is always the right answer,” he said. “Someday, because of how someone saw you and how you presented yourself they will come back and remind you of that, and you’ll benefit from that.”