IRVING, Texas -- Before Kevin Sumlin hired Kliff Kingsbury, Kingsbury got Sumlin fired.
From Texas A&M, no less, too.
Sumlin jokes about it these days, and of course, it's not quite that simple, but Sumlin was on R.C. Slocum's staff in College Station back in 2001 when the Aggies headed to Lubbock. They lost, 12-0, to a Kingsbury-led Red Raiders squad.
"Probably the only game I’ve been a part of that we got shutout," Sumlin said, adding that Tech fans tore down the goal posts (among other activities) that night.
A year later, Sumlin faced questions from folks wondering if A&M would score against the Red Raiders this time around. They did -- on the game's first play. It didn't change the outcome, though. Missed extra-point attempts meant overtime, and Kingsbury joined Wes Welker in knocking off the Aggies, 48-47, in overtime.
"Wes Welker and those guys hung around us at Houston -- Wes is around all the time, that’s Kliff’s guy -- and they proceeded to really cost me my job at the end of the year," Sumlin said.
Slocum was fired at the end of the 6-6 season and Sumlin landed on Bob Stoops' staff at Oklahoma. Still, less than a decade later, Sumlin brought Kingsbury to his staff at Houston and brought him to Texas A&M for the 2012 season, too. He helped Johnny Manziel become the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, and the Aggies to make a splash in the SEC with 10 wins and a status as one of the hottest teams and biggest surprises in college football.
Kingsbury parlayed that success into a head coaching job at his alma mater.
"They’re getting a heck of a coach. He worked hard this year. He was there every day at 5 a.m. and he was the last person to leave. I know you hear that and you think it may just be people saying that, but it was true," Manziel said. "Every morning I was up there to work out or whatever it was, he was already there for hours ahead of time."
A&M fans remembered Kingsbury from his days at Tech and Sumlin had to deal with minor blowback from bringing the Big 12 legend on staff in the Aggies' first year in the SEC.
"People were worried, like 'Why is Kliff Kingsbury here?' I just said, 'Get over it. He’s here to do the best job he can,'" Sumlin said. "Obviously, he has. He’s going to be highly successful."
That's the hope for Texas Tech, who hired the 33-year-old in hopes of rediscovering the spark and big wins that Mike Leach brought to Lubbock and Tommy Tuberville had difficulty maintaining.
"Coach Kingsbury brings a lot of energy, brings a lot of passion. He’s going to come, and he was the guy that gave us a spark whenever we needed it. Whenever we were dragging a little bit, whatever it was, he was the guy that brought a lot of spark," Manziel said. "He was a young guy, energetic and that’s what he brought to the table. He would get everybody fired up, he would give a speech. He’d be running around just like we would be, and that was cool for us to see."
Sumlin also knows the advantage that Kingsbury has in being an alum at the school that just hired him. Texas Tech, like many others, comes with unique sets of challenges and desires that sometimes aren't tangible. Experience inside the program is the only solution.
"The difference in college football and pro football, it’s not a plug and play. You have to have a background and an understanding of what particular institutions value," Sumlin said. "He gets that."
And Tech gets Kingsbury.