Oscar Giles was raised by football coaches.
From playing for Pat Walker at Palacios High School and David McWilliams at the University of Texas to working for Mack Brown at Texas and many others, he has taken lessons under their watch to become the coach and the man he is today.
Now he’s back for the second time as a full-timer at his alma mater, this time as former fellow graduate assistant and cubicle mate Tom Herman’s defensive line coach. Giles has been here for the good times and the bad, and he doesn’t overlook any bit of advice he’s ever been given in his travels. He quotes his mentors with the ease of an English lit professor quoting Shakespeare and loves to pull examples from his past into the present to illustrate his points.
In short, he’s a coach who doesn’t believe in living on past successes but uses them as fuel for future challenges.
“Each and every year, if you’re not changing as a coach, you need to get out of the profession,” he said. “You need to grow as a coach, and I feel like I’ve grown since I left here.”
The résumé speaks for itself. He’s sent a few handfuls of defensive ends to the pros, most notably Cory Redding, who retired before the 2016 season after 13 years in the NFL, and current veterans Brian Orakpo, Brian Robison, Sam Acho and Lamarr Houston, to name a few.
On many days you can spot a few of Giles’ pupils working out downstairs at the Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Center with current Longhorns. Over the years, some of the alumni thought it might be a good idea to show their former position coach just how much they appreciated him. Giles said Orakpo, who is in the middle of a four-year, $31 million deal with Tennessee that will pay him $6.2 million next season, actually suggested the NFL guys go in together and buy him a car.
Giles had a better idea.
“I want to see your kids,” said the married father of two. “This means more to me than the money, the trophy or the gold watch they want to buy me. I want them to come back and say, ‘I’m a better father, I’m a better husband, I’m a better employee because of the influence you had on me.’”
If those words seem familiar, then you remember the aftermath of the greatest night in modern Texas football history.
As the Longhorns celebrated in the locker room after toppling USC in the greatest college football game ever played, Mack Brown stood up to speak. Members of the newly minted 2005 national champions each took a knee.
Brown’s message was simple. He didn’t want the win over Southern Cal to be their peak.
“When you’re 54, I don’t want you to say winning a football game is the best thing that’s ever happened in my life,” he said. “If you’ve got enough about you to win a national championship, you’ve got enough about you to be a great citizen and great role model, a great father and a great leader in your family. That’s what we’re looking for when you get out of here.”
Giles was in the room that night. He had just completed his first season as Texas’ defensive ends coach. Earlier that night, Robison and some comrades stopped USC running back LenDale White on a fourth-and-1 carry to set the stage for Vince Young to score the winning TD. It was the greatest moment of Giles’ coaching career, yet he doesn’t wear the championship ring from that season.
“I have it at home along with some other rings I’m very proud of,” he said. “I’m concerned now about taking care of the business of these kids going to school. They would love to see that championship ring, but they want one too. My job is to teach them how to do it.”
It also doesn’t hurt to look as if you could still go out there and bang. Giles isn’t much heavier than he was with the Horns in the late 1980s. When defensive coordinator Todd Orlando met him at the University of Houston, his first question was: Can he still play? The two quickly became fast friends. Orlando, a non-Texan, called himself the “odd man out” in the defensive room with Jason Washington and Giles, but not for long.
“He took me under his wing,” Orlando said. “Oscar is a special human being. He’s a brother to me. Your best friend as a coordinator and your best friend as a linebacker coach is the defensive line guy. When you bond with them really quick, it makes your job a lot easier.”
In true Brown fashion, you won’t get Giles to single out players in his room by name. And in true Herman fashion, he’s choosing the clean slate method over watching film of the past two defenses, which have been some of the worst statistically in school history.
“I don’t look at that,” he said. “I look at what’s happening now.”
If Giles has his way, it’s the rebirth of a national power.
Editor’s note: This is the third of an occasional series profiling Texas’ new assistant football coaches.