A new docu-series called “Our Time” produced for ESPN+ is giving fans a chance to look behind the curtain of the Oklahoma State football program, as well as some personal time with coach Mike Gundy’s life away from the gridiron.
The film crew documenting the Cowboy program has been in Stillwater following members of the team at least since early June. The first episode that was broadcast nearly two weeks ago focuses on the football program going through COVID-19 testing in preparation for their return to training in mid-June.
It gave a firsthand look at how linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga was affected by the virus that has created a global pandemic – with one clip showing him in a sweat as he was impacted by fever.
While it hasn’t dove deep into football itself, yet, Gundy is already sharing optimism of how it is impacting the program.
“The show with ESPN has really helped us,” Gundy said Monday. “The young men we recruit – 17- and 18-year-old young men, some 19-year-olds at some two-year schools – they follow shows like the one that's going on here at Oklahoma State, and that marketability and inside look at Cowboy football has really helped our recruiting and gained a lot of attention across the country.”
Thus far, much of the focus in the series has been about attempting to return to workouts amid a pandemic and the call for social justice that is sweeping the country. It even hit close to Stillwater after running back Chuba Hubbard’s Twitter response to Gundy wearing a T-shirt from One America News Network – a far-right cable channel that has had at least one on-air personality claim the Black Lives Matter as a “farce.”
While the second episode didn’t include Gundy’s remarks to the film crew – which ESPN released on its website the same week as the events unfolded – in which he called himself a “dumba- -" uppo seeing why his wearing the shirt could be considered “insensitive,” it did dive into a coaches meeting in which Gundy attempts to stress to his assistant coaches for a need for promoting diversity within their program (which does have have three Black position coaches, including offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn, as well a handful of minorities in analyst roles).
The episode also included images of Gundy working on his family farm – highlighted by him petting a tortoise – and his father, Ray, working the farm along with his head coach son.
The series will likely begin to shift toward more of a football focus since the team has gone through voluntary workouts throughout June and eventually practices this past month.
“It’s exciting,” redshirt sophomore quarterback Spencer Sanders said of the series. “I've seen the first episode, I think it's pretty dope. I like it. I think it'll bring some attention to Oklahoma State and kind of show, like how we work and what we do and how hard we work, so I think this year is going to prove how hard we work on the field, so just wait and see.”
For Oklahoma State’s first-year offensive coordinator, who has been the wide receivers coach at Oklahoma State since 2011, the addition of having cameras over his shoulder has given him some flashbacks to his first year in Stillwater.
“You know, it reminds me how it was in 2011. We had a great football team at that time,” Dunn said last week. “And, you know, at first, it's a little bit distracting, but you know, you get to talk to the guys a little bit and then all of a sudden you forget that they're even there. …
“They just become part of the team, so to speak. And so what you see is, I’m sure as the show goes, is what you get. It's not dressed up. You know, we're not sugarcoating anything so. And I suppose fun.”
Though the first episode turned toward focusing on one of the top defenders on the team, it was more by accident, as the crew was originally focused on following running back Chuba Hubbard, who is a top-10 selection by Heisman Trophy voters last year and a favorite to be in the mix for it again this year. Hubbard happens to be the roommate of Ogbongbemiga, who tested positive for COVID-19 and was the first Cowboy to make it known to the public via Twitter.
In a bit of irony, the clip of Ogbongbemiga in which he was talking about dealing with the virus while in a fever sweat, he had a blanket covering his head and created a dark image for the series. And based on what defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said last week about the series, it was the perfect bit of imagery from his top defender.
“I’m on defense in the Big 12, so I don’t get much time with the ESPN cameras,” Knowles said. “When you coach defense in the Big 12, you are like the mushroom society – they keep you in the dark, throw fertilizer on you and hope you grow.”
The docu-series has only been made available on ESPN+, which requires a monthly subscription to gain access to content such as the Oklahoma State series.