After one of the most successful seasons and careers in Oklahoma history, Gunnar Gundy will be sitting out of football for an entire year.
Gundy led Stillwater High to back-to-back Class 6A-II state runner-up finishes before graduating in December. He threw for nearly 6,000 yards in the past two years to give the Pioneers a powerful offensive attack when combined with the strong rushing attack of Qwontrel Walker, who has rushed for more than 5,000 yards through three years of high school.
Despite being one of the best quarterbacks in the state, Gundy received very few scholarship offers from colleges around the country. One big reason – his dad, Mike Gundy, has built a successful program at Oklahoma State since he took over as head coach in 2005.
It was believed many colleges coaches didn’t want to recruit or offer a scholarship to a quarterback who was likely to go play for his dad in his hometown. In the end, they were right. Gundy opted to stay and play for the Cowboys.
“I was interested in those others offers with Toledo and Eastern Michigan,” Gundy said. “I was looking to broaden my view of different campuses and different parts of the country. I was interested in both of those schools a lot, and it was neat to see their campuses and towns. But, it just came down to what I was most comfortable with and I was most comfortable with going to OSU.”
The opportunity to play for the team he’s grown up cheering for was too much to pass up for the SHS graduate who finished his prep career with a 32-5 record since he took over as a starter at the beginning of his sophomore campaign.
“I’ve obviously been biased to OSU, ever since I was born really,” Gundy said. “I’ve been around here my whole life and I’ve lived in Stillwater my entire life. I’ve been accustomed to the OSU lifestyle and going to all types of OSU games. Growing up here, I’ve gotten a really good view of the culture here and the atmosphere here in Stillwater and on campus.
“For me, it was the most comfortable choice. I have my family here and a lot of my friends here, so it was the most comfortable choice for me. It’s always been a dream to play here, and I’ve always been been looking forward to the chance to play here. When that came up, I thought to myself I have to take that chance, because I’ve always dreamed about it and it’s always been a big goal for me.”
Gundy could have entered as a member of the 2020 class like his fellow SHS seniors. Instead, he opted to walk on to the OSU program next year as a member of the 2021 class.
It wasn’t an easy decision. He didn’t want to sit out of football an entire year. Yet, he ultimately made the choice to join the Cowboy program in January – a year after his high school graduation and more than a year after playing his final high school game.
“It was really up to my dad, because I told him I wanted to play and practice immediately,” Gundy said. “I wanted to be on the team and work out with the team – be active in the football lifestyle. He suggested that I take a full season off to work out and lift to get bigger, stronger and faster, and then come back in 2021. That was a hard choice, because I didn’t want to miss a whole year. I can’t even practice or anything, so I’m basically not playing football for a whole year, which was pretty hard on me at first.
“It just came down to the fact that he believed I needed another year of getting stronger and faster to develop more as a QB and as an athlete. Come 2021, I will be more prepared for that season and to take on a whole different style of football compared to high school.”
The Cowboys already had their 2020 quarterback in four-star recruit Shane Illingworth, a 6-foot-5 product from Norco, California. Illingworth could redshirt this fall with OSU redshirt sophomore Spencer Sanders back after starting nearly every game last year.
“I don’t think he’s going to take a quarterback in 2021, so I think I’ll kind of fill in that spot,” Gundy said of his father’s recruiting class for next year.
Instead of joining the team this year, Gundy will be taking classes – as he did this spring – next fall. He won’t be taking enough hours to make him a full-time student.
If he was a full-time student, his eligibility clock would begin. Doing it his way prevents that clock from starting until the spring semester of 2021.
“In this situation, I’m taking as many classes as I can without being a full-time student,” Gundy said. “I still have my full eligibility left until next year.”
Gundy plans to study nutritional sciences at OSU. It’s been an interest of his for a while, especially learning about what someone who works for his father does for a living.
“I’ve always been interested in Rob Glass’ job as the strength and conditioning coach at OSU. His knowledge of the body and how you can improve it through exercise and nutrition,” Gundy said. “That was something that I’ve always been interested in, and OSU happens to offer it so I took advantage of that.”
While classes will keep Gundy busy until his time to play football resumes, he will be working toward one day making it on the field his dad played on more than 30 years ago.
“It’s going to be weird not having to prep or practice or do anything like that,” Gundy said. “I’ll be pretty busy trying to learn the new offense and trying to learn how they do things up there. Obviously, it’s a whole different whole compared to high school. It’s more of a full-time job compared to high school, so I’m looking forward to that. I’ll have this year to focus on learning and developing. I think I can take advantage of it.
“I can’t wait to play again,” Gundy said. “It’s going to be exciting. I know it’s probably going to be a while, but I’m excited. … I’m going to try and make a name for myself. I want to do something special. That’s a pretty good goal to shoot for. It’s a hard one, a big one, but I think I can do it. So, I’m just getting myself ready.”