The Baltimore Ravens might as well be nicknamed "Oklahoma East."
There are five Ravens who come from the Norman, Okla., school, including recent draftees Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, Orlando Brown Jr. and Mark Andrews. Those three were coached by Bob Stoops, who led the Sooners from 1999-2016. Stoops is enjoying what he's seeing from his former players in Baltimore, starting with Orlando Brown.
Brown was a first-team All-Big 12 selection, the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year and an All-American in 2017. But before ever attending Oklahoma, Brown had to overcome adversity with the loss of his father, who died in 2011 at age 40.
"I knew Orlando would do well. He's one of my special ones, believe me. I love the guy," Stoops said on
Glenn Clark Radio
Sept. 16. "… I'm as proud of him as anyone I've recruited."
Another Oklahoma player who flew under the radar was Andrews, the John Mackey Award winner and an All-American in 2017. Andrews is Oklahoma's all-time receiving yards leader among tight ends, and that production continued during his rookie season with the Ravens. He had 34 receptions for 552 yards and three touchdowns; 552 yards is a Ravens rookie tight end record.
"Mark's special, man. He's a fabulous player. He was for us and it's not surprising to me," Stoops said. "That guy's talented, big guy, big hands, got speed. He's what you want."
So far, Andrews is having a great 2019 season, with 17 catches for 220 yards and two touchdowns. He's posted two straight 100-yard receiving games.
Lastly, there's one of the newest Ravens in Marquise Brown, whose nickname -- "Hollywood" -- matches his first two games in the NFL. Prior to landing at Oklahoma, he too flew under the radar. He spent the 2016 season at the College of the Canyons (Calif.) before spending two seasons with the Sooners.
"He's the fastest guy I think I've ever recruited," Stoops said. "When you watch his tape, even back then, he was just as he is now: running past everybody. He can run like nobody."
Long before Stoops coached future Ravens at Oklahoma (he also coached offensive lineman Ben Powers and safety Tony Jefferson), he grew up in Youngstown, Ohio. That's not far from Toledo, Ohio, the hometown of Ravens head coach John Harbaugh.
Northeast Ohio has produced some of the best coaches in football, and for Stoops, it's no secret why.
"You grow up in that area, Northeast Ohio. It's all the same," Stoops said. "You better have some tough skin and you better be able to roll around a fight a little bit and compete. It's a very different and special area and I've always felt fortunate to come [from] up there."
Harbaugh and Stoops have succeeded at some of the highest levels of their sport. Harbaugh won Super Bowl XLVII, while Stoops won the 2000 national championship and 10 Big 12 titles with Oklahoma.
Stoops found coaching after his college football career at the University of Iowa came to a close. He was a business major, but Stoops said he wasn't planning on "sitting at a desk" his whole life. So, he found his place back on the same football field where he was a defensive back from 1979-1982.
He got some good advice from Dan McCarney and Barry Alvarez, both of whom were assistant coaches at Iowa when he was a player.
"I go back to the football office and they are laughing at me, looking at my shirt unbuttoned and tie," Stoops said. "They were like, 'What are you doing?' I said, 'Well, I was at a bunch of interviews over at the student union.' They started laughing like, 'You don't need to be doing that. You need to just stay here and be a coach with us.'"
He liked the idea. It hit him that coaching was his outlet, his place to thrive. But all good things must come to an end, and in June 2017, Stoops stepped down from Oklahoma. It was a tough decision, but he's stuck by it.
"It's like your whole life you've got a crew of guys. They're your buddies, players and coaches. You walk around virtually every day with them, 120 fellas all doing the same thing," Stoops said. "It's like your brothers, then all the sudden, you're alone, but I was aware it was gonna be that way. It's all good. I'm figuring it out as I go."
His college football coaching days might be over, but he's not fully done with coaching yet. Stoops will be the head coach and the general manager of the XFL's Dallas Renegades, so he'll be back on the football field next spring.
For more from Stoop, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox