Whistles, yells, and thuds from pads clashing echoed around Hook Eales Stadium. Houston Nutt told players at a football camp in McAlester those are the greatest sounds in the world.
The former longtime college football coach who retired in 2011 and has since been a college football studio analyst for CBS spoke with high school players from seven programs at the camp Friday.
Nutt was a position coach at Oklahoma State and Arkansas, then head coach for Murray State, Boise State, Arkansas, and Ole Miss before he retired. He told the players Friday that some of their coaches played for him and set an example for them to follow.
“I want to tell you the first thing about these guys, they were good teammates,” Nutt said.
Lee Keith, Brent Parker, and Marcus Wharry all played for Nutt at Oklahoma State. Keith, a McAlester graduate, is back at his alma mater on the football coaching staff. Wharry, an Idabel grad, is on staff with his alma mater as well, while Parker is the head coach at Blackwell.
They all welcomed Nutt with open arms to Hook Eales Stadium, sharing a few embraces and taking photos together.
Nutt told the players from all the attending schools — McAlester, Idabel, Blackwell, Pocola, Stroud, Coalgate, and Holdenville — they should enjoy getting to play football and always be a good teammate.
Then he pointed to Keith, Parker, and Wharry.
“You know what I can say about them? They were a good teammate,” he said. “They would lift somebody up. You’ve got to be able to lift somebody up…this is a team game, and it takes a great teammate.”
Nutt’s father was a teacher and coached basketball at the Arkansas School for the Deaf for 35 years.
He told the players he learned a new definition of family from living with and interacting with those students.
“As long as you could sign, you were in the family,” Nutt said as he signed the words.
He recounted a moment when sitting on the end of the bench during a game with his father calling a timeout in frustration. The elder Nutt approached each of the first four players and wiped two fingers across their forehead, signing the words “no sweat.”
“He finally got to the fifth guy, and he was like this,” Nutt said as he brought his hands down from his face in a sign. “He said ‘that’s sweat. Why would you not sweat for him? He’s sweating for the team, he’s sweating for you.’ Will you sweat for your teammate?”
Nutt spoke about some of his former athletes that have set many records and earned a bevy of accolades — but the most important thing they did was work hard, learn to listen, and be a good teammate.
“You know what they told about Barry Sanders, what they told him his whole life? He was too small,” he said. “But he didn’t believe that. At 5-foot-6 and a quarter when he got to Stillwater, Oklahoma, he could vertical jump about 40 inches…You watch any highlight when he hit that end zone, all he did was hand (the ball) to the official.
“He could make you miss,” he continued. “And nobody said he was too small. Nobody. He’s one of the greatest ever.”
Nutt also highlighted moments with Darren McFadden at Arkansas as they met for their weekly film session.
“On Sunday, we’d do a special teams film, and he’d come into the room and punch me ‘hey coach, watch my block,’” he said. “And he was on a kickoff return for teammate Felix Jones, and he would go block that guy and pancake him.”
Nutt said the players will never know when someone is watching them — from coaches to colleges to the next generation.
He told the players from the schools that he will be watching them, and every decision they make, both on and off the field, can make an impact.
“These are the best days of your life. Guys, I wish you nothing but the best,” he said. “Let’s stay focused, let’s stay committed, and let’s do right when nobody is looking.”
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