It is a story worth revisiting with Drake Stoops down to one Oklahoma game, and the reality of a Stoops-less Sooners program suddenly hours away.
Carol Stoops is the right one to tell it.
“Talk about being born into OU,” she says. “When Bobby was introduced as head coach, they put us up in a bed and breakfast and kind of hid us out that night. We were super overwhelmed at the media attention. He was the defensive coordinator at Florida. I wasn’t part of that media frenzy, Bobby was.
“That night, I said to Bobby, ‘I am so tired. I think I’m pregnant.’ And he goes, ‘Oh of course you’re tired.’ Because the Iowa Hawkeyes job was part of this whole thing and it was emotional and stressful. It was a lot. Bobby was recruiting for the Gators at the time. I had been home and I had Mackie.
“But mm-mm. I said, ‘I’m pregnant tired. Every mom knows.’ So then I fly home to Florida and he stays on the job. I go home and do one of those tests on my own. Sure enough.
“Of course, we didn’t know it was twins.”
It was Drake and Isaac, Mackie’s younger brothers, Carol’s and Bobby’s sons.
Twenty-four years later we know Bobby as Bob, the winningest coach in OU history, and Drake as his own man, having separated from his dad as obviously as he does some safety trying to cover him on third-and-5. He goes out against Arizona in Thursday’s Alamo Bowl as an All-Big 12 receiver, and surely Jackson Arnold’s safety net.
Twenty-four years later Brent Venables is talking about Drake after Drake’s 12-catch 125-yard contribution to OU’s 10th win, 69-45 over TCU on Nov. 24.
“Carol, his mama, talking about throwing him and Isaac the ball on the trampoline and practicing catches,” Venables said that day, “and them getting mad saying, ‘I don’t want you to throw the easy ones. Make me dive for it.’”
Twenty-four years later, it dawns on us that the Stoops story we need to know, before it’s too late and we have missed her impact, is Mama’s.
“Yeah she was always just kind of our rock,” Drake says, “and biggest supporter.”
“She’s always been holding things together and taking care of us when we’ve needed somebody to take care of us,” Isaac says. “She’s always been able to look everyone in the face no matter what happens and figure it out.”
“Carol was the glue,” Bob says. “I was gone. All coaches are, I don’t wanna say too much, but that’s what our job requires. You have to have someone that’s really strong and independent and that can lead when you’re gone, and she was big-time with that.”
“I don’t know,” Carol says. “It’s just what you did.”
It’s just what moms do. Amid the chaos, they put their hardships aside and make everything better.
Of course, some chaos hits differently.
Carol took on twins right as her husband took on the Sooners. Unlike her husband, she grew up with sisters only.
“Oh I loved it,” she says. “I always wanted a brother, and I was the last girl so I knew I wasn’t getting a brother. Therefore, seriously, I was always with my dad. My dad was a project guy, could do anything, could fix anything. I did boy things. I mowed the lawn with a tractor and at this rest home that my dad had built. So boys were perfect for me.”
“Not that it was easy to handle twins, but to be able to discipline them or throw the ball to them or whatever,” Bob says, “she came by that naturally.”
The throwing was routine.
“My dad is coaching or he’s at practice. Who’s going to throw the ball to us on the trampoline? It was my mom throwing it over the net,” Drake says. “It was just like, ‘Mom, throw it higher, throw it farther, throw it so we have to dive.’ Just trying to recreate those cool plays we watched on Saturdays, recreate it in our backyard as little guys.”
The discipline could be routine if necessary.
“It was never ‘When your dad gets home…’” Carol says. “It took a lot for me to get super upset, but they knew if I was there.”
Much more often than not, Mama Stoops rolled with the literal punches.
“I would look at Bobby sometimes and be like, ‘Seriously?’” she says. “The physicalness… It isn’t all boys but it was those boys. That’s Stoops boys. And it’s twins.
“When Mackie was in school and there would be no one in that middle seat, they would get in the backseat every time and someone would sit in the middle seat. I was like, ‘Nope. Each side. You’re gonna leave that middle seat empty.’ That way they couldn’t pummel each other.”
If outsiders figure twin boys are mostly exhausting, the twins’ mom might see them as mostly fascinating. So it was with Drake and Isaac’s mom, whether discovering why Drake advanced from applesauce to meat sooner than Isaac, or why Isaac for a time decided he’d wear yellow every day so everyone could tell him from his twin.
“And then Isaac would take his toys and line them up in a perfect line,” Carol says. “Bobby would just look at me and roll his eyes because Isaac was very detailed and organized. And that was me.
“I’d look at him and say, ‘Mm-mm. I get one child.’ Because Drake and Mackie are a total mess like Bobby. They don’t think past tomorrow.”
How is Drake like his mama?
“Drake is definitely more sensitive. He has a really sweet heart,” Carol says. “My mom is the kindest person you’d want to know. He took after my mom. Drake is more like me in that way. A deep, deep thinker and a sweet soul.”
Imagine the delicate line between unity and individuality parents must walk while raising twins. Imagine walking that line in Norman while Dad coaches OU’s football team to astronomical success.
The Stoopses managed by seeking a balance. Separating the twins into different classrooms going into first grade, for instance, while keeping them together on their schools’ sports teams.
They managed by maintaining some normalcy.
Isaac and Drake preferred their dad’s practices to his games, since practice was more like a playground and neither had much use for sitting still. Carol and the kids’ football outings, then, were to practice. Or to Bob’s office where they could have lunch together.
The twins might scream “Daddy!” at the sight of Bob’s picture on the magazine rack, but that didn’t keep them from the grocery store.
There were automobile perks with both Bob’s and Carol’s jobs – Carol’s Mary-Kay business eventually netted her the position of national sales director – but the kids did some bus-riding to Roosevelt Elementary and Whittier Middle School.
They did some Mom things, besides playing trampoline football.
“We’d go ride bikes or we’d build something or we’d do puzzles. I was that mom,” Carol says. “After that it was games.”
“Whether it was getting us to and from practice,” Drake says, “taking care of us all day, dealing with all our BS, you know, to put it lightly…
“Me and Drake weren’t the most perfect children. Having twins is not always easy,” Isaac says. “But Mom did a good job.”
It’s what they do.
It’s what they say.
“They both used to say, ‘I hate being a twin, blah, blah, blah.’ Because you don’t even know who you are, let alone that person next to you,” Carol says. “And no one else knows you without that other person next to you.
“Finally I got tired of hearing it after a couple years. I said, ‘You know what? You can hate it all you want. You can hate it the rest of your life. But it’s what you are. You’re a twin. There’s nothing you can do about it. So you can start embracing it and realize it’s the greatest blessing in the world, and realize you have a best friend by your side your entire life.’ Now they do…
“Drake only this year said, ‘Gosh Mom, I finally get what you say about having a twin. It’s such a blessing.’”