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Why Isaiah Coe is 'Super Thankful' For Brent Venables Ahead of 'Emotional' Home Finale

The redshirt senior has been focused on living in the moment ahead of Friday's Senior Day festivities at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

NORMAN — Isaiah Coe’s path to success in Norman was a winding road.

The Homewood, IL, product first planed at Iowa Western Community College, where he earned junior college All-American accolades from PrepStar before making the move to Norman.

He was originally enticed by Alex Grinch’s defense, enrolling in 2021 to join the Sooners.

Coe was immediately touted as one of the most explosive athletes on the defense, playing in 12 games and finishing the 2021 season with nine total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and one quarterback sack.

But then Coe was faced with a major decision alongside all of his teammates.

Lincoln Riley left for USC, taking Grinch with him, leaving Oklahoma’s roster in a state of flux.

Early after Brent Venables was named the head coach and Todd Bates accepted the gig as OU’s defensive tackles coach, Coe felt valued by the incoming coaching staff.

“They believed in me from the jump,” Coe said on Monday night. “From the first day I had my meeting with Coach Venables, he believed in me, without a doubt. Coach Bates believed in me. From somebody that didn’t get recruited to come to Clemson and they come in here and say those positive things, it means a lot that they can have faith in me to go here and represent the University of Oklahoma the best way that I can. I’m very much thankful for that.”

Coe said he could feel Venables’ excitement and energy from the first Zoom call he had with the team, but it wasn’t until he finally got to meet his new head coach in person that he truly felt the personal touch Venables would leave on the entire program.

“The first time I met him personally, we had an introduction meeting,” said Coe. “I came down and sat in the office upstairs. We just talked. He was just trying to get to know me and get to know my story. Obviously he did some research before I got in there. He knew I was a juco kid. He knew I was a kid, my first year here, I saw the field and I didn’t see the field… it was on and off.

“He understood from day one that everything that I wanted to be, I had a chance to. He believed in me from the jump. He said as long as I worked hard and followed him, he can lead me to where I want to go. Right now, I’m doing good. So nothing but love for him. I really do love that guy from the bottom of my heart.”

The new defensive scheme brought in by Venables and Bates coincided with an uptick in Coe’s production and importance.

Last year, Coe started six of the 12 games he played in. He finished with 20 total tackles, eight tackles for loss and a pair of sacks, helping to anchor the interior of the Sooners’ defensive line.

Coe’s first season under Venables was punctuated with a dominant Bedlam showing, where he posted a career-high five tackles and tied his career-best showing with a pair of tackles for loss.

This year, he’s started five of OU’s 11 contests, racking up 25 total tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss, also registering a quarterback hurry.

A redshirt senior, Coe has been a vocal leader that stayed through the coaching transition to help Venables lay his foundation at Oklahoma.

“I’m incredibly thankful for them – the leadership, the belief, all the work that they’ve put in and all the sacrifice,” Venables said of his seniors during his weekly press conference on Monday. “That’s a group of guys who are incredibly, heavily invested in this program, certainly in the locker room and with their teammates. I got a great perspective and tremendous amount of thankfulness for them.”

For many, Friday’s 11 a.m. battle with TCU will also mark the final time they take the field in Norman.

Oklahoma still has plenty to play for. A Big 12 Championship appearance is still on the table if the Sooners get help from elsewhere in the conference, but a victory would seal a 10-win season and a massive improvement over last year’s 6-6 finish to the regular season.

Everyone in OU’s locker room is working to stay focused on the task at hand, but Venables acknowledged how difficult it will be for many of his seniors.

“Senior Day is a very emotional time,” Venables said. “It really kind of hits them in the face when they see their mom and dad or whoever the village they might have out there on the field. It hits you on the face pretty quick. It’ll be a challenge.

“It’s my responsibility to help them not to allow their emotions hijack the moment because they have to turn around and play a really tough, physical game. It’s a mental challenge and a physical challenge that the game requires, several moments later after having that moment, they have to be ready to play. I am really proud and thankful for this group of guys.”

For Coe, he’s been trying to take things day-by-day, though he’s aware the close of his OU career is hurtling toward the redshirt senior. 

“I haven’t been trying to think about (Senior Day) to be honest,” he said. “I just have been trying to live in the moment… It’s going to be emotional. I’m just a kid from Chicago and come to Oklahoma and them taking a chance on a juco kid. Before I even got here, some people were already questioning me and all types of things.

“How things played out, I’m just super thankful… Just everybody that really poured into my and my life. I’m forever thankful because Lord knows what I could be doing right now if I never came and took this chance.”