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No. 21 Oklahoma State: And, wearing No. 12 — just like dad did — quarterback Gunnar Gundy

Berry Tramel
The Oklahoman
Oklahoma State quarterback Gunnar Gundy, as a freshman, will likely watch and learn as third-year starter Spencer Sanders directs the Cowboys offense. Gundy wears No. 12, the same jersey number that his father, current Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy, wore when he was Oklahoma State's quarterback.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Mike Gundy talked in circles after Oklahoma State's spring game in April. Can't blame him. College football coaches are more careful than ever when talking about their quarterbacks.

But Gundy also was talking about his son.

"That's a tough situation for him," Gundy said of Gunnar Gundy, a Cowboys freshman. "His dad's the coach. It's not easy. Call it like you want. Get the elephant out of the room. It's not easy to be in his position."

Gunnar Gundy is not in contention to be OSU's quarterback in 2021. Spencer Sanders is a two-year starter. Shane Illingworth filled in quite ably as a true freshman last season when Sanders was injured.

Junior-college transfer Ethan Bullock, in his second OSU season, is on scholarship. Peyton Thompson is a nonscholarship QB from Tulsa Union in his third Cowboys season.

But still, it's a rare occurrence in college football.

Head coach father/quarterback son.

Which explains Gundy's contrasting tales of Gunnar's spring game.

First, Gundy said all OSU quarterbacks are in a tough spot, since he's a head coach who focuses on QBs in practice and games.

"That's pretty much all I watch on an offensive set, because that's just my life," Gundy said. "And I admit that. I don't watch the big guys up front. I watch 'em on tape, but I don't watch 'em during the games, because that's not my life.

"So I watch everything Shane does. I watch everything Spencer does, and Gunnar and Peyton and Bullock."

But when asked about a particular Gunnar play in the spring game, Gundy said, "I missed a few of his plays, because, I had something else going on."

Gundy grinned.

"I wouldn't give him too much credit, early, right now," Gundy said.

Then-6-year-old Gunnar Gundy, left, leads his father, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy, from the team plane as they arrive at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix on Dec. 26, 2007 ahead of the Insight Bowl matchup with Indiana on New Year's Day.

It's tough being a quarterback when the head coach is your father. It's also tough being a head coach when a quarterback is your son.

Research by a variety of sources, including the University of Colorado's Dave Plati, shows that since World War II, only about 10 starting quarterbacks in major college football had their dad as a head coach.

In the Big Eight, Darrell Dickey, now Texas A&M's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, called signals at Kansas State with Jim Dickey as the KSU coach. In the Big 12, Cody Hawkins quarterbacked Colorado with Dan Hawkins as the coach.

Some others of note? Coach Todd Dodge and Riley Dodge at North Texas. Red and Bob Blaik at Army. Jim and Kevin Sweeney at Fresno State. Bob Commings and Bobby Jr. at Iowa. Joe and Tim Salem at Minnesota.

Gunnar Gundy is a long way from starting for the Cowboys. He was a 2020 Stillwater High School graduate but enrolled late to delay starting the clock on his eligibility. So Gunnar didn't join the team until this spring.

And there Gunnar was in the spring game, wearing No. 12, the same jersey number his father wore for OSU while becoming the Big Eight's all-time passing yardage leader.

"I'm sure that part of it will be nostalgic to the family," Mike Gundy said. "But I'm just excited about watching all of 'em (quarterbacks).

"Honestly, when he's out there, I'm watching the same things as I do when Shane's out there. I'm wanting to know what he's doing with his reads. I want the ball to be distributed ... and getting it into someone's hands that can make a play. I don't want 'em holding onto the football."

"That's a tough situation for him," Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy said of Gunnar Gundy, a Cowboys freshman quarterback. "His dad's the coach. It's not easy. Call it like you want. Get the elephant out of the room. It's not easy to be in his position."

You never know when a quarterback's time will come. Last season, Illingworth was a true freshman whose spring practice was interrupted early by COVID-19. He came out of quarantine due to contact tracing only two days before the season opener against Tulsa.

When Sanders suffered an ankle injury early in the game, and Bullock was ineffective, Illingworth came on and led OSU to victory.

So who knows? Maybe Gunnar Gundy never plays. Maybe he's throwing to Brennan Presley in September.

"Gunnar, he's a cool guy," Illingworth said. "He's a good dude. A humble dude. He works his tail off, too. He's not a guy who thinks things are going to be handed to him.

"He goes and grinds. He's a grinder. That's what he is. He's super athletic. Can throw a good ball. As time goes on, people are going to see that he's just a football player. He can go out there and make some plays. Kid's the real deal."

Mike Gundy zinged his son after the spring game, saying, "He's been watching too much of (Patrick) Mahomes cutups, (but) I think he handled it well, handled himself well.

"You go through that when you're young. You're working with some wideouts that you don't work with as much. Got some protection. Guys ran some routes, made a few plays, got to run around.

"It's a learning process. Same thing with Peyton. Peyton's been here longer. And Bullock ... it's just like with Shane, he's way further along now than he was when we started the season last year. Just being able to function, with the speed of the game, and bad guys chasing you and stuff."

Will Gunnar Gundy get the same chance Illingworth got?

Will Gunnar Gundy and his father join an exclusive club that includes the likes of Red and Bob Blaik?

Stay tuned.

Our preseason Top 25

For the last 12 years, the American-Statesman's sports staff has spent July breaking down our own preseason Top 25 rankings. Last year's eventual College Football Playoff semifinalists ranked first, second, third and ninth in our 2020 poll.

Our previous Top 25 team stories:

No. 25 Ole Miss: Rebels are hoping, banking on good returns from Lane Kiffin 3.0

No. 24 Washington: Huskies' Morris looks like the quarterback to run with — for now

No. 23 Louisiana: Billy Napier could be college football's next big thing (if he wants it)

No. 22 Penn State: Nittany Lions' safeties honed their craft at Lackawanna