Some of college football’s biggest names have done it.
How could we have possibly ended up here? Watching college football coaches breaking out the latest dance moves for all to see?
The moments after a college football practice can be dull. The hard work is done for the day, free time is rapidly approaching and the intensity that drives a good practice is starting to subside.
It was in those moments that Kye Staley and Hubert Anyiam changed the college football landscape. The former Oklahoma State standouts had a habit of breaking out their dance moves after practice in 2011, eventually cajoling head coach Mike Gundy to do the same.
“We started dancing after a practice; we were messing with him to dance,” Staley said. “And he did 'The Gundy' and we looked at each other like, ‘What the heck is he doing?’ because we had never seen anything like that. After he did it one time, we had him do it after every single practice.”
Staley and Anyiam ended up becoming the genesis of the trend by initiating Mike Gundy’s postgame dance after the Cowboys’ 30-29 comeback win at Texas A&M in September 2011. In the video of Gundy’s dancing debut, Staley (wearing No. 9) and Anyiam (wearing No. 84) can be seen dancing and encouraging the Cowboys coach to dance. What ensued was something few people had ever seen before and even fewer will ever forget.
“He won’t admit it, but I’m pretty sure he was a YMCA limbo champion,” Staley said. “I think I cried for five minutes from laughter.”
The godfather of dancing coaches was born.
“You’ve got to have a little bit of skill to do it, you can’t just do it,” Gundy said.
His signature dance, “The Gundy,” has become a trademark of its own. So much so it gets mentioned constantly as Gundy hits the recruiting trail or any of his other duties as the Cowboys’ CEO.
“I get a lot in recruiting. I get a lot in the walk,” Gundy said of people bringing his dance moves up. “And if we’re ever at a function with a lot of Oklahoma State people, there will always be somebody ... who says, 'Teach me how to Gundy.'”
It wasn’t the first time Gundy had danced with his team, just the first time he’d done it with cameras rolling in the postgame locker room, thus allowing it to go viral in a matter of hours.
“Most people didn’t know a human being my age could get that close to the floor without falling down, to be honest with you,” Gundy said of the national reaction to his dance. “So it just kind of went from there. My boys at home were like, ‘Really? I’ve got to go to school tomorrow.’ So they gave me a hard time about it.”
Therein lies the true trailblazing aspect of the dancing craze. It invites us into these intimate, emotional moments between a coach — who we normally see in professional/media mode — and his team.
“At first I was hesitant, because it’s kind of between me and the team,” Gundy said. “There are no secrets. There are too many people in locker rooms with cameras and phones, so I thought, 'Forget it.'”
Fast-forward four years, and there goes Frank Beamer, hat on sideways, eyes wide, “dabbing” in the middle of a group of Hokies.
“He was dancing, doing his thing then hit us with one dab then he hit us with a couple more,” said Virginia Tech receiver Isaiah Ford, who can be seen standing right next to Beamer when he broke out his version of the dab. “I lost it. I completely lost it. For him to know what that means — know the dance — was special, it was funny. That was the first and only time I’ve seen that. It came at the right time.”
Many people view the entire dancing trend as a silly, yet hilarious exhibition. Yet it really matters to the people who matter the most to those coaches: The players.
“For him to cherish those moments showed we have a special bond with Coach Beamer and he has a special bond with us,” Ford said. “We can dance with him and enjoy life together … with him.”
Swinney has become known for his various dance escapades. The head coach of the top-ranked Tigers doesn’t have a signature dance like Gundy, but he doesn’t hesitate to let his players teach him the latest dance trend.
“It’s fun,” Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson said of his dancing coach. “It’s a guy that you can always just let loose and be around. It’s not just about football, it’s about life, just having fun and celebrating the wins. He wants to bring this culture to have fun with it, lighten up the mood and not make it too serious.”
It’s that willingness to let their guard down and try to be just one of the guys — even if it doesn’t, um, quite look like they’re one of the guys — that can strengthen their relationship in ways few things can. Others might not appreciate the dancing, but its obvious in the players' reactions and words that those moments are creating memories that last and strengthening relationships that can last a lifetime.
“That’s real important,” Virginia Tech running back Travon McMillian said. “Especially as the head coach, all eyes are on you. If you can do that in front of our team and show how much you care, how much you appreciate us, I think that’s big time.”
Showing his players how much he cares is the reason the godfather of the college coach dance craze plans to continue his postgame dances whenever his players want to see it.
“There has to be some fun in what we do,” Gundy said. “There’s so much pressure … winning, success, how the players do. There has to be fun. If they want me to do it — for all they do for us — I have no problem doing it.”
And what started as a simple request has blossomed into a national trend.
“Now he does it on the regular. Now you see all these other coaches like Dabo Swinney and Frank Beamer doing it; they’re stealing Coach Gundy’s style,” Staley joked. “A lot of coaches can be so serious at times, but it’s good to enjoy a victory with your team and have just as much fun as they are. [When Gundy danced], I felt like he was excited, just like the rest of us, and wanted to show his excitement.”