NORMAN — Lincoln Riley and Cale Gundy were tearing up the recruiting trail when a text message appeared on Gundy’s phone.
There were no words from DeMarco Murray. It was just an emoji that Riley typically sends to signal a new player joining the OU football family.
“After word broke that we were going to be looking for a new running backs coach, I was actually in Dallas recruiting with coach Gundy,” Riley said Wednesday. “He showed me his phone and DeMarco sent him a text with the eyeballs. That was a good recruit for us.”
On Wednesday, Riley introduced Murray as the Sooners’ new running backs coach and Jamar Cain as its defensive ends/outside linebackers coach.
Murray, one of the Sooners’ top running backs, smiled when talking about returning to his alma mater. He’d always stayed in contact with Gundy, his former running backs coach when he played in 2007-10.
Murray, who turned 32 on Wednesday, knew he wanted to go into coaching when he retired from the NFL. But he said his goal was to wait until he was 34 or 35.
His life turned to broadcasting for Fox. During his work, he got reacquainted with Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin, who was on OU’s staff while Murray was in Norman. An offseason discussion turned into a job offer and Murray spent the 2019 season as the Wildcats’ running backs coach.
When OU reached out just one year later, Murray jumped at the opportunity “to return home.”
Is coaching harder than he thought?
“It is. But it’s fun and it’s a challenge, but that is what I’m used to,” Murray said. “My whole life, it’s always been a competitive atmosphere in everything that I’ve done. This is where you want to be. I know it’s not easy and I’m excited about the process.”
Cain, 40, coaches with a chip on his shoulder. He’s been at smaller schools like Missouri State and Cal Poly. He’s recruited to North Dakota State, where bone-chilling winters can be a recruiting detriment.
But those days molded him into the recruiter that he is today.
“I tell people this all day that I came from the mud when it comes to recruiting,” Cain said.
His journey to OU began as a graduate assistant at Ohio University and most recently included a stop at Arizona State.
“I’ve learned a lot from so many coaches,” Cain said, naming off Frank Solich, Chris Klieman, Jeff Tedford and Herm Edwards. “Now to come work with Coach Riley? I’m a lucky guy when it comes to coaching and head coaches that I’ve been around. I’m excited to be here.”
Cain said he’s always had to prove himself after playing football at Sacramento College and New Mexico State. He had to do it while hunting recruits for FCS schools. And he knows there’s people wondering if he’s the right person for this OU job.
“When I took this job here, somebody told me you have to recruit against the big boys. So? That doesn’t scare me. I’ve been recruiting against them my entire life,” Cain said. “Now because I have an Oklahoma patch, it’s something different? I’m going to work my butt off every single day and prove people wrong. It fuels me.”