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What Next? Gundy Seemed to Follow Advice of Former Player and Parent of a Former Player

Oklahoma State had a lot of attention and publicity on Monday, June 15, but it was not the kind you want. The promise of change has been made and with it the opportunity to turn a negative into a positive.

STILLWATER -- The day after Chuba Hubbard and teammates took to Twitter to protest a t-shirt worn last week by head coach Mike Gundy and the West End Zone was quiet. The third wave of Cowboy football players was continuing the process of checking in and preparing for joining the two waves of players that proceeded them back to campus. The voluntary workouts are starting, but the player position group meetings are still on Zoom. 

The afternoon brought a new video for Oklahoma State fans and the college football world to consume and it was just what a former player in defensive end Richetti Jones and the parent of former Cowboys slot receiver Jalen McCleskey and current Tulane assistant coach J.J. McCleskey and I had talked about on Tuesday morning while I was driving to my radio show. 

Gundy came out and fully apologized for wearing the t-shirt that players found offensive. He followed up his promise to meet with players and work toward change to better the culture of the program. 

"I've always liked the way Coach Gundy and his staff have operated and make no mistake, Jalen will always be a Cowboy," said J.J. McCleskey, the former New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals player that is now coaching the cornerbacks at Tulane. 

McCleskey had called out of concern over what he saw. Fans will remember that it was Jalen, still Oklahoma State's sixth all-time leading receiver with 167 receptions, that was among the first to test the four-game red-shirt rule and use it as a way to stop your senior season and then grad transfer. McCleskey did it and frustrated Gundy before transferring to Tulane to play in his hometown and for the school where his dad was coaching. 

Jalen McCleskey and his father pose after game with Army at West Point in New York. 

Jalen McCleskey and his father pose after game with Army at West Point in New York. 

As Coach McCleskey and I were discussing the current climate and how it looks like America is listening and listening more attentively to young African-American men more than ever before. He told me that he liked something he heard me say. 

"You said this is a tremendous opportunity, but with it comes responsibility," Coach McCleskey said. "You are right and we can hope that these voices understand that and take the right advantage of this. I think you are right that this could be a time for more advancement than we've seen."

J.J. McCleskey is a good man and has had a strong influence on a lot of young athletes. Some of those before he became head coach when he was working as a personal trainer for athletes. He pointed some of those athletes, including his own son, to Mike Gundy and his staff and the Oklahoma State program.  

"Like I said, I think he does things right," he added. "I didn't even know about that news network and I had to look it up."

One of Gundy's former players and staunchest supporters is Richetti Jones. The former high school All-American from Dallas' Lincoln High School was a top 50 recruit in the nation and one of the top recruits that had come to Stillwater in recent memory. Unfortunately, he had severely dislocated his hip during his senior season at Lincoln. Jones battled back from the injury that might have ended a lot of careers. He finished up as a starter at defensive end for the Big 12 champions.

Richetti Jones after picking off a pass in the 2011 Bedlam win to clinch the Big 12 Championship.

Richetti Jones after picking off a pass in the 2011 Bedlam win to clinch the Big 12 Championship.

"I know that I could pick up the phone right now and ask Coach Gundy for a reference and he would say, 'sure Richetti, I'll have Danielle (his assistant) send that off right away. Is there anything else I can do to help you.' That is the way Coach Gundy is. He's my man!"

A supporter, but Jones said he could not give his former head coach a pass on the One America News t-shirt.

"I just want Coach Gundy to think about this and wrap his head around it because I just had this epiphany this morning," Jones said. "Believe it or not Coach Gundy, you have black children. You have sons on your team that do not have fathers and do not know what it is like to have male instruction. You are the closest thing they have to a father. I know it's not fair and that any of your other friends could wear that shirt, but you are held to a different standard. You have black sons and they look up to you and they embody everything that you teach them and they trust you. Not only that, but their families trust you. Would Coach Gundy wear that shirt on a recruiting trip? Coach Gundy if he ever got to my house wearing that shirt my dad would have karate-sized him."

Jones brings the entertainment to the interview and he was always one of the best Cowboy players to interview in is playing days as the starting defensive end. Jones brings the real as well. 

While he wasn't afraid to criticize his coach for wearing that shirt last week while fishing, the shirt that Gundy sincerely apologized for later on Tuesday, Jones also wasn't holding back on the way he felt Hubbard and the current Cowboys should have handled their disgust.

"When I was at Oklahoma State (2009-11) Coach Gundy had an open door policy and we had plenty of team meetings where we were able to voice whatever we were displeased with," Jones said. "It was heard and sometime Coach Gundy disagreed and it was his way or no way. Other times, Coach Gundy listened and he saw it our way."

Jones said one of the biggest of those instances was when the team went to Gundy and said they wanted to practice on Mondays and not on Sunday evenings. Joel Tudman, now a strength coach and the team's director of (off the field) player development, was preaching at a church in Oklahoma City and a majority of the players wanted to worship there on Sunday nights. 

"He listened to our voices and he respected our wishes that we didn't want to practice on Sunday that we wanted to worship and go to church," Jones said. "He respected our feelings and it was handled."

Chuba Hubbard took to Twitter early Tuesday morning to further emphasize his objective for change and his methods from announcing that objective on social media. A message that started with objection to a t-shirt head coach Mike Gundy wore while fishing with two of his sons. The t-shirt promoting One America News Network.

"I am glad things happened the way that they did because things are being changed as we speak," Hubbard said in part, perhaps knowing that his head coach would be posting another video by the end of the day. "I spoke out because I am emotionally drained and I'm tired of seeing stuff happening without results or consequences. I realize that I have a platform to generate change and I am trying my best to use it accordingly. I am a young black man that wants change. I want change that will bring a better experience for black brothers and sisters at Oklahoma State. It is that simple."

Maybe not simple, but it was all certainly clearer from both sides on Tuesday.