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Firing by Oklahoma State helped Texas DC Vance Bedford grow as coach, person

The career of the Texas alum has now led him back to where he started, which is also a long way from where he's been.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

After more than 30 years, the circuitous journey of Texas Longhorns defensive coordinator Vance Bedford has led him around once again to his alma mater.

Inside of that giant arc, a few smaller ones -- from Oklahoma State to Michigan to Oklahoma State to Michigan and then towards his most serendipitous connection that has kept him with Texas head coach Charlie Strong for the last seven football seasons.

The low point in those circles was unquestionably the second stint at Oklahoma State.

Fresh off of spending six years mostly with Dick Jauron in the Windy City as the defensive backs coach for the Chicago Bears, Bedford got his first defensive coordinator gig back in Stillwater in 2005, where he had coached defensive backs in 1993 and 1994.

Current Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy had worked with Bedford those years and brought him back as his first defensive coordinator when Les Miles left to take the coaching job at LSU and Gundy was promoted.

It didn't end well.

"You had a new staff and sometimes things just don't work out," Bedford said this week. "That's just being real. I wasn't the right fit. [Oklahoma State Head] Coach [Mike] Gundy's assistant has done a tremendous job. My hat is off to him and his staff and the players that he recruited. It just didn't work out for me at the time and it was time for me to move on and that's what happened."

Some of the falling out in Stillwater was for the same type of brutal honesty that has made Bedford a favorite in Austin this season:

In his final year, OSU fell to Houston 34-25 and Bedford called Cowboy fans "roaches" and "fence-straddlers" if they didn't fully support the team. Bedford also had a well-documented sideline blow up, reportedly with coach Mike Gundy, during a victory at Kansas.

And that's probably too much to say out loud, not to mention the inadvisability of public confrontations with your head coach. Looking back on it now, Bedford can see that he had to mature.

"A lot of times, we as individuals sometimes we are our own worst enemies," he said. "I'm an outspoken person. That's just my personality. I haven't changed. I've adjusted."

The parting of ways marked the low point for Bedford, but he used it as a learning opportunity.

"It gave me the opportunity to go back to the University of Michigan. I was Lloyd Carr's first hire when he got the job in 1995. Believe it or not, I was his last hire in 2007. It was a great opportunity for me to see him go out a winner as a head football coach. I have a lot of love and respect for Lloyd Carr."

More than just a change to some other familiar scenery, the fiery coach had to learn to be a better coach and the inspiration for his growth came from outside the industry.

"My wife has taught me more than anyone ever has. I was a person who at times didn't always listen. My wife taught me to listen. She said, 'Sometimes Vance, you don't need to fix everything. Sometimes you just need to listen.' It made me a better coach because it caused me to sit back and listen to the players to understand who they are. It makes me step back and listen to the head coach and assistant coaches, even people walking down the hall. That's what it does."

With growth as a person learning how to control and channel the intensity that served him so well as a defensive back at Texas but sabotaged him as the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, Bedford was rebounding from the lowest point of his coaching career, one that is still used against him when evaluating his resume.

After Carr's last season at Michigan, Bedford made his important connection with Strong, a coach he had recruited against in the past. Florida was in the market for a defensive backs coach when associate head coach/recruiting coordinator/safeties coach Doc Holliday left for his alma mater West Virginia and co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach Greg Mattison left for the Baltimore Ravens.

There was another connection there that benefited Bedford, though -- he had worked with Florida head coach Urban Meyer at Colorado State from 1990 to 1993, which really provided the opportunity to head to Gainesville and truly resurrect his career based on the lessons he learned from his failures as a person and coach at Oklahoma State.

"I was confident I could be a football coach first," Bedford said. "The most important thing for me is that I also was the safeties coach and the defensive backfield coach. That comes first, being able to coach a position. When Coach Strong gave me the opportunity, here we sit today talking now. So what happens is anytime you have some adversity in your life, it teaches you to grow, to change, and to adjust. That was something that for me personally probably was a good thing to happen to me."

So while the locations have repeated themselves, Bedford's mistakes as a young coordinator have not -- he can moderate his comments enough in press conferences to avoid any excessive inflammation and he's now known as the loose guy on the sidelines with the players while head coach Charlie Strong tightens up, at least in the description of senior cornerback Quandre Diggs.

In fact, Bedford wouldn't have changed anything and feels no ill will towards Mike Gundy.

"A lot of good things have happened and the best thing that probably happened, was for Gundy to let me go. It put me in a situation to develop more as a man, to make me a better person, to make me a better coach. So what happened was it put me in a position to be where I am today."