Oscar Giles Returns to Austin for First Time as Texas Opponent
LARAMIE -- Oscar Giles loves the University of Texas fight song.
He knows all the words. It means something to him.
He won't be singing or even humming it this week, though, no matter how many times it blares through the loudspeakers in practice. His loyalty now lies on the high plains of Laramie.
His alma mater is taking a backseat.
"I tell you what, I love the fight song here," Wyoming's defensive tackles coach and run-game coordinator said, flashing his trademark smile. "I'm telling you, I'm in love with this place because of the kids I'm working with, the community and the city of Laramie.
"It's been great, man. I'm enjoying it."
The Cowboys will travel to Austin Saturday night to take on the No. 4 Longhorns in front of more than 100,000 inside Darrell K Royal Stadium. It's a place Giles called home from 1987-90, where he was a three-year starter at defensive end. He earned All-Southwest Conference honors as a senior, leading Texas to a conference championship and a berth in the Cotton Bowl.
Giles was named a semifinalist for the Outland Trophy, an award given to the best interior lineman in college football. He tallied 22 career sacks, which is still 10th in the school's history books. His nine fumble recoveries is tied for second in UT lore.
Craig Bohl was hoping those numbers would've been racked up in Madison.
Wyoming's head coach, then a linebackers coach at the University of Wisconsin, recruited the Palacios, Texas, native. He even convinced him to come on a visit.
"A 28-year-old, green-behind-his-ears Badger football coach thought I could out-recruit Texas," Bohl joked after Giles' hire was announced in February of 2022. "We made a heck of a run at Oscar, but at the end of the day, he was going to be a Texas Longhorn. But our relationship grew."
Eventually it was a former Wyoming head coach, Fred Akers, who got Giles to sign on the dotted line. Still, he thanks Bohl, though, for giving him an opportunity.
"I just fell in love with him because of the person he is," Giles said of Bohl. "I can see why at 17, 18 years old I did it because at 50-something I still respect him and understand what he's all about."
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After a brief NFL stint with the Atlanta Falcons and a four-year career in the Canadian Football League, Giles returned to the Lone Star State in 1998 where he became a defensive line and strength coach at what was then known as Southwest Texas State. The following season, he served as a graduate assistant in Austin under Mack Brown.
He eventually accepted jobs at SMU (2000-02) and Houston (2003-04) before rejoining Brown and the Longhorns in 2005.
You might recall that team.
Led by the dynamic Vince Young under center, Texas knocked off USC 41-38 in an instant classic inside the Rose Bowl to claim the school's ninth national championship. Giles and the 'Horns would return to the title game four years later, this time falling to Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide.
Brown and his staff were eventually let go after the 2013 campaign. Giles, after one season at Louisiana Tech, returned to Houston where he coached under Tom Herman. After two seasons and a 22-4 overall record, Herman was lured away by the Longhorns.
Giles was back in Austin.
That reunion lasted just four years.
"You know, they experienced really good success," Bohl said, pointing to UT's 32-18 record, including four straight bowl victories. "But, once again, not enough success for Texas to be happy."
That, turns out, was Wyoming's gain.
Giles, after taking a year off, returned to coaching, this time fully buying into Bohl's recruiting pitch.
What will his emotions be like when he rolls into Austin this week and coaches against his former team for the first time? Let's just say he's downplaying the gravity of it all.
"It's a humble opportunity for me just to get the opportunity to be here at Wyoming and get our opportunity to play Texas," he said. "I'm going to take advantage of it and I'm going to get my guys ready, because at the end of the day, I'm not rushing the passer or getting off blocks. I just want to instill with my guys, 'listen, It's all about us.'
"I want those guys to reflect off me, you know, the mental toughness and physical toughness. It will be displayed."
Bohl said that's the message he's received from Giles, too.
"He told me a little while ago, by the time the game gets going, my guys are going to be eating red meat," he said.
Two of those guys are defensive tackles Gavin Meyer and Ben Florentine.
Meyer said Giles popped on a film of his first start at Texas. He talked about the nerves he felt, the twitching in his legs. It served a purpose.
"He was saying you have to go in there and just think you belong," the 6-foot-4, 282-pound junior added.
That has been the mindset all week.
"At the end of the day, he's Wyoming's D-line coach and he wants to beat them," said Florentine, a 6-foot-1, 273-pound sophomore. "You know, he wants to get us right and he's going to prepare us this week to win."
What would it mean to pull off this stunner for Giles?
"It would be huge," Florentine added. "It would be huge for us and definitely for him, knowing that, even though that's his alma mater, you know, his position group got the job done and got him a win."
Giles said the phone calls have been plentiful this week from area code 512. It's mostly friends looking for tickets, he joked. He said his wife, Kim, landed that task. Giles has spent the better part of 18 seasons wearing burnt orange, but that all changes Saturday night.
"I'm excited, my family's excited," he said. "You know, it's going to be a great opportunity and I'm looking forward to seeing our guys, not just with the crowd fare and all that, but, hey, this is big time football. Let's do it."
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