ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When offensive tackle Donald Stephenson thinks of Bob Stoops, he'll remember him as a man with more Big 12 titles (10) than home losses (9) during his 18-year coaching career.
"That right there [is his legacy]," Stephenson said. "I mean, he's the king of the Big 12. Every year he was there, they had a shot at the Big 12 or won the Big 12 clean."
Stoops, the all-time winningest coach in Oklahoma history, retired Wednesday, effective immediately. Owner Pat Bowlen, a proud Oklahoma alumnus, hosted Stoops and his staff at Dove Valley on several occasions.
Inside linebacker Corey Nelson, who played for Stoops from 2010-2013, said Stephenson's description of Stoops is spot on.
"That's the perfect title or description that you can give a head coach," Nelson said. "He reigned over the Big 12 for years. He definitely is the king of the Big 12. The amount of wins he tallied up compared to the amount of losses is phenomenal."
The news, which broke Wednesday as players were leaving UCHealth Training Center following an OTA practice, caught both players off guard.
"I was shocked," said Stephenson, who played with Nelson for two years at OU. "Coach Stoops is one of those guys who's been there almost 20 years and never missed a game, never missed a practice. Always there. He's one of those guys and one of those faces you just expect to be there. It's a shock that he's not there. … It's going to be different."
Stephenson played for Stoops from 2007-2011, including his redshirt senior season during which the offensive tackle was named honorable mention All-Big 12. During Stephenson's five seasons in Norman, the Sooners won the Big 12 three times and appeared in a BCS Championship Game.
"He's one of those coaches that after a loss, you hate to play Oklahoma that next Saturday," Stephenson said. "He's just one of those tough guys that kind of teaches his players: You get punched in the mouth, you better be coming back harder than ever. I kind of learned that with the way I play. I definitely respect him for that.
"The Big 12's gonna miss him. The NCAA's gonna miss him. The game of football's gonna miss him."
Most importantly, his former players at Oklahoma will miss the coach who gave them a chance to simultaneously win championships and develop as men.
"What I'll mostly remember about him is how much he cared about his players," Nelson said. "He always looked out for us, he always took care of us and I'll never forget how he always held us to a higher standard. He treated us like men."