AUSTIN, Texas -- As the Texas House of Representatives convened at 10 a.m. Tuesday morning, the daily order of business began.
A call to order was followed by a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance, then the Texas pledge.
"Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible."
Afterward, one of the day's honorees, waiting upstairs in the gallery overlooking the House floor, turned around.
"Didn't recite that one," Bob Stoops said. "Didn't know the words."
The legendary Oklahoma coach, the Texas tormentor, the man who was 11-7 against the Longhorns, including five straight between 2000 to 2004, was behind the orange curtain in Austin, a place where Stoops says he can't recall ever spending the night, even when he was in town to recruit local stars like Samaje Perine.
On Tuesday, he waited to stand in front of the Texas Legislature for a resolution honoring the XFL for being based in Arlington, Texas, its hub where all the teams train and all the coaches and players live. As he stood in the Capitol, just 1.2 miles away from Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on the UT campus, he laughed about being a fish out of water.
"I think I felt the ground rumble when I walked in here," he said.
This is all part of life for Stoops in his second coaching career, which has taken him places he never expected to be. He was part of the first revival of the XFL 2.0, which was canceled after five games amid the Covid-19 pandemic. He returned this year for the new iteration helmed by "The Rock" and Dany Garcia, and he was in Austin alongside his Houston colleague, Wade Phillips, who provided plenty of Texas bona fides, buffering Stoops.
Phillips said he could relate to the feeling of being somewhere you're out of your element.
"I never thought I'd be in Buffalo, New York, either," he said. "But that's coaching."
The XFL has made Texas a priority, with three teams helmed by big-name coaches, including Stoops' Arlington Renegades, Phillips' Houston Roughnecks and Hines Ward's San Antonio Brahmas, similar to the NBA's Texas triangle.
"WHEREAS, Understanding Texans' deep love of football, the XFL has located three of its eight teams in the Lone Star State, and each benefits from the leadership of head coaches who have enjoyed notable success on the gridiron," the resolution read in part.
Phillips, a Southeast Texas native, wore a red tie flecked with tiny Texas flags. Stoops did not. As legislators from Houston and Arlington introduced each coach before the floor, Phillips got fist-pumps from the politicians, particularly during mentions of his time working with his dad, Bum Phillips, with the Houston Oilers. As the list of many of his career stops were listed off, Phillips mimicked counting the steps on his fingers. Stoops also received a polite smattering of applause. Stoops also received a polite smattering of applause, as well as a couple of hand signs, according to Phillips.
"There were a lot of people giving him the Longhorns signal," Phillips said. "And some other signals too."
Stoops appreciates the passion of college football fans. He's used to a little trash talk. But he keeps his response pretty succinct and keeps moving. When he gets the occasional "Hook 'Em," he just responds, "We usually do."
He spent a little time reading plaques in the Capitol, including learning about the flag that flew over the Alamo. Leaving the building, a small group pointed, with one saying, "There's Bob Stoops, one of our greatest football coaches," which was met with a "What's going on, fellas?" from Stoops. "People have been really polite all day," he said.
Later, as he walked across the Capitol grounds, he even suggested a good spot for a photo with the Capitol dome in the background, with everyone pleased with the results.
"Maybe I'll be a photographer in my next career," he said. But that's all part of the gig: part coaching, part salesman.
"I didn't have to be the marketing guy at OU," Stoops said. "That marketed itself. But being a new league, I get it and I'm excited to do it."
Stoops said after 18 years at Oklahoma, after a Hall of Fame college football career, coaching with greats like Hayden Fry, Bill Snyder, Steve Spurrier and going 191-48 in Norman, including a national championship, this job is the perfect fit for him at this stage in his life when he needed more space to himself.
"This is just football," Stoops said. "It's a limited schedule, a 10-week season, one playoff game, one championship, so it doesn't eat up my entire year. You're working with guys that love football. You're working with older guys who don't need babysitting, don't need team rules. They pick the game up quickly because they've played so much football. So they're really easy to coach. I love being on the field. When I leave the field, I don't have to go to an academic meeting, a compliance meeting or a recruiting meeting. I just get to coach. It's not on par with what I used to do by any means."
He's coaching players and working with coaches who are also chasing their dreams. The league itself is somewhat of a fraternity among both the players and coaches, thanks to its unique setup of being based with every team in one place, crossing paths frequently then heading to the cities their teams represent to do community work and play games.
Last week, when the Renegades played the D.C. Defenders, both teams loaded up on buses in Arlington at the same time, flew on the same plane, then went their own ways.
"I saw [Defenders coach] Reggie Barlow, and go up and gave him a man hug and had a fun talk," Stoops said. "We're in the back of the plane, they're in the front of the plane. We get off the plane, go on our separate buses, go to our separate hotel. It's cool. Leaving the field, guys are all talking, they all know each other."
Arlington and Houston share the same practice facility at Choctaw Stadium, the former Texas Rangers baseball stadium. Stoops said when one team is eating, you can see the other team practicing on the field below. But this week, they'll practice at separate places since Stoops' Renegades are 4-5 and hosting Phillips' 6-3 Roughnecks -- who have already clinched a playoff spot -- on Sunday (2 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN app).
It won't have the heat of the Texas-OU rivalry, but not much does. And that's the way Stoops prefers it these days. He lives in the Dallas suburbs and is able to get to Norman whenever he needs to, such as this weekend when he's going back for the unveiling of Kyler Murray's statue in Oklahoma's Heisman park.
Before heading back to practice to get ready to face each other, both coaches took stock of their experience. Bum was honored by the legislature, not for football, but for his service in the Marine Raiders in World War II, so Wade had been here before.
"I'm a Texan through and through," said Phillips. "So it was a real honor to be recognized. I really appreciate it."
Stoops, however, had not.
"I never thought in my wildest dreams I'd be at the State Capitol in Austin, Texas being recognized for anything," Stoops said. "I just figured that if they wanted to do this, they'd say, 'Well, if he's there, we're not going to do it.'"