OKLAHOMA STATE'S OWN "HOMETOWN" HEROES

Richard Rowe-USA TODAY Sports

The State of Ohio has LeBron James. OSU athletics has three Oklahoma natives that returned to lead or return their respective programs to national prominence.

With LeBron James taking his talents back home to Cleveland, every sports site in the nation must have a LeBron story, right? Well, Oklahoma State doesn't have much of a connection to King James, however OSU does have some native "saviors" of its own that we can brag about.

Cowboy wrestling coach John Smith came from Del City, OK, where he claimed two state titles as a wrestler before taking his talents to Stillwater. Smith was quiet as a wrestler at Oklahoma State until taking a redshirt after his sophomore season. In his redshirt junior year Smith claimed his first Big 8 and NCAA titles. Smith proceeded to snatch another Big 8 and NCAA title in his final year, along with an Olympic Freestyle championship for the United States. After graduating from OSU in 1988, Smith began his career as an international competitor and became a freestyle powerhouse. The grappler claimed four World Championships and two Pan American Games titles. After winning his second Olympic gold medal in 1992, Smith retired and became the new head coach of the OSU dynasty. Smith has now coached the Cowboys for 18 years, producing 26 individual NCAA champions and 102 All-American honorees. He has also led the Cowboys to five NCAA team titles, four of which came in a row from 2003 through 2006. Smith returned from his international career to lead his alma mater back to national dominance following a brief tangle with NCAA probation related to the previous coach, Joe Seay.

Head Football Coach Mike Gundy also returned to Oklahoma State to help the struggling program become a consistent Big 12 contender and also garner national attention. The Midwest City native attended his state's own college where he was a four year starter at quarterback for the Cowboys. Gundy graduated OSU as one of the most decorated quarterbacks of that time and held multiple records which still stand today. After graduating, Gundy joined the OSU coaching staff as an assistant. The former gunslinger coached the receivers and quarterbacks and had a one year stint as the offensive coordinator until leaving for Baylor in 1996, where he was the quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator. After a year with Baylor and three years at Maryland, Gundy returned to Stillwater to become the new offensive coordinator. Gundy was eventually named the head coach in 2005 and the rest is history. The 2011 National Coach of the Year led the Cowboys to a Big 12 title that same year and has a career record of 77-38 to become Oklahoma State's winningest coach in football history. He's also coached 12 All-Americans in just the past five years and hasn't seen a losing record since his first year as the head coach.

Current Cowboy baseball coach Josh Holliday has deep Stillwater roots. Holliday grew up in Stillwater while his father, Tom, was an assistant and head coach for the OSU baseball program. Holliday quickly made a name of his own as a player at Oklahoma State after starting all four years at catcher and third base. While playing for OSU, Holliday made two appearances in the College World Series and played the second most games all-time for a Cowboy with 256. After graduating in 1999, Holliday played two years in the Toronto Blue Jays organization before returning to Oklahoma State as an assistant. In 2003 Holliday was inducted into the OSU Baseball Hall of Fame, then left Stillwater to become the assistant coach at North Carolina State. After assisting at several schools over the next eight years, Holliday returned home prior to the 2013 season as the Cowboys new head coach. In two years as the manager, Holliday has a 89-37 record and captured a regular season Big 12 title this past season. He also led his team into the NCAA tournament both seasons, including a run into the super regionals this season.

Three of Oklahoma State's most dominant programs are run by graduates with strong roots in Oklahoma and Stillwater, which may be what makes Oklahoma State so great. Fans being able to know that the men in charge bleed orange just as strongly as they do, and that they too once stood in the same bleachers as you, swaying back-and-forth singing the alma mater with thousands of their closest friends.

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