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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Sooner

Sooner

The Making of a Football Coach - Lincoln Riley's Rise from West Texas to the University of Oklahoma

Brandon Sneed

Henry Holt and Co.

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Lincoln Riley: Quarterback Whisperer, Back-to-back Big 12 champion, Head coach of the OU Sooners

Legendary University of Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops shook the college football world in 2017 when he handpicked Lincoln Riley to be his successor at the perennial powerhouse. At age thirty-three. In his first three seasons at Oklahoma, Riley’s teams dominated the Big 12 to reach the national semifinals each year, and two of his quarterbacks—Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray—won the Heisman Trophy and were No. 1 overall picks by the Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals in the NFL draft.

In Sooner, Brandon Sneed charts Riley’s remarkable ascent from small-town star quarterback in West Texas, to walk-on turned assistant coach at Texas Tech, where he learned the revolutionary Air Raid system from Mike Leach, to offensive coordinator at East Carolina, to football titan Oklahoma. It takes more than sheer talent to go toe to toe with the brilliant strategists of the modern game—like The University of Alabama’s Nick Saban, University of Texas’s Tom Herman, and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer—and Sneed shows how this wunderkind’s commitment, grit, relationships, pain, brains, and passion have empowered him to compete. And win.

More important than the zealous fans, the intense rivalries, and the multimillion-dollar contracts, are the human connections that lie at the heart of Lincoln Riley’s triumphs as a coach. Sooner is not only the story of a mastermind in the making, but also a reminder of the… More…

Lincoln Riley: Quarterback Whisperer, Back-to-back Big 12 champion, Head coach of the OU Sooners

Legendary University of Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops shook the college football world in 2017 when he handpicked Lincoln Riley to be his successor at the perennial powerhouse. At age thirty-three. In his first three seasons at Oklahoma, Riley’s teams dominated the Big 12 to reach the national semifinals each year, and two of his quarterbacks—Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray—won the Heisman Trophy and were No. 1 overall picks by the Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals in the NFL draft.

In Sooner, Brandon Sneed charts Riley’s remarkable ascent from small-town star quarterback in West Texas, to walk-on turned assistant coach at Texas Tech, where he learned the revolutionary Air Raid system from Mike Leach, to offensive coordinator at East Carolina, to football titan Oklahoma. It takes more than sheer talent to go toe to toe with the brilliant strategists of the modern game—like The University of Alabama’s Nick Saban, University of Texas’s Tom Herman, and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer—and Sneed shows how this wunderkind’s commitment, grit, relationships, pain, brains, and passion have empowered him to compete. And win.

More important than the zealous fans, the intense rivalries, and the multimillion-dollar contracts, are the human connections that lie at the heart of Lincoln Riley’s triumphs as a coach. Sooner is not only the story of a mastermind in the making, but also a reminder of the many people who make each of us who we are.

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Muleshoe

Once upon a time, Lincoln Riley was a quarterback, and he was good.

He grew up in Muleshoe, a tiny West Texas town in Bailey County about three hours north of Odessa. Population: five thousand. You can...

Praise for Sooner

“In Sooner, we learn how Oklahoma wunderkind Lincoln Riley combined grit and guile on his journey from Muleshoe, Texas, to join the pantheon of college football geniuses. With rigorous reporting and dazzling prose, Brandon Sneed has given us the exhilarating story of the making of a thirty-three-year-old coaching mastermind. Sooner is the sports book of 2020.”
Don Van Natta Jr., New York Times bestselling author of First Off the Tee and Wonder Girl and winner of a Pulitzer Prize

“Lincoln Riley didn’t just miraculously arrive as Oklahoma’s boy genius savior but took lumps and setbacks along the way. Brandon Sneed skillfully guides readers through each step of Riley’s parallel paths of a man evolving into a coach and a coach maturing into a man, to his ultimate destination on top of the Big 12.”
Jonathan Abrams, New York Times bestselling author of Boys Among Men and All the Pieces Matter

“Lincoln Riley becoming Oklahoma’s head coach at just thirty-three years old was astonishing. So is the story of how he got there. It is full of surprising twists and turns, and Brandon Sneed tells it beautifully. He gives us not just a great story of a young man learning how to be a coach, but also a raw and moving meditation on what it means to grow as a human being. This is the football book of the year. You’ll be glad you read it.”
Lars Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of The Mannings, Chasing the Bear, and The Storm and the Tide

“Lincoln Riley can s… More…

“In Sooner, we learn how Oklahoma wunderkind Lincoln Riley combined grit and guile on his journey from Muleshoe, Texas, to join the pantheon of college football geniuses. With rigorous reporting and dazzling prose, Brandon Sneed has given us the exhilarating story of the making of a thirty-three-year-old coaching mastermind. Sooner is the sports book of 2020.”
Don Van Natta Jr., New York Times bestselling author of First Off the Tee and Wonder Girl and winner of a Pulitzer Prize

“Lincoln Riley didn’t just miraculously arrive as Oklahoma’s boy genius savior but took lumps and setbacks along the way. Brandon Sneed skillfully guides readers through each step of Riley’s parallel paths of a man evolving into a coach and a coach maturing into a man, to his ultimate destination on top of the Big 12.”
Jonathan Abrams, New York Times bestselling author of Boys Among Men and All the Pieces Matter

“Lincoln Riley becoming Oklahoma’s head coach at just thirty-three years old was astonishing. So is the story of how he got there. It is full of surprising twists and turns, and Brandon Sneed tells it beautifully. He gives us not just a great story of a young man learning how to be a coach, but also a raw and moving meditation on what it means to grow as a human being. This is the football book of the year. You’ll be glad you read it.”
Lars Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of The Mannings, Chasing the Bear, and The Storm and the Tide

“Lincoln Riley can seem, from the outside, to be a whiz-kid overnight success story. But Brandon Sneed’s Sooner shows how his success is rooted in work ethic, dedication, smarts, and good old-fashioned elbow grease. It’s a comprehensive, intelligent look at a man whose story is just getting started.”
Will Leitch, author of Are We Winning? and God Save the Fan

“Lincoln Riley’s meteoric rise to the top echelon of college football might seem preordained, but Brandon Sneed tells a very different story. He artfully explores the traits, the big breaks, and the crucial moments that led Riley from Muleshoe, Texas, to the throne of a blue-blood program at just 33 years old—six hours and several lightyears from where he started. Sooner is a rich biography of a fascinating person, which will quickly find its place in the canon of college football’s must-reads.”
John U. Bacon, bestselling author of Overtime: Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines at the Crossroads of College Football

“How could you not like reading the story of a guy from Muleshoe, Texas? But Lincoln Riley’s inspiring journey to the top is only one of the stories that make Sooner so appealing. With deep reporting and a knack for making every character come off the page, as he takes us from dusty West Texas backroads into rollicking stadiums, Brandon Sneed offers up nothing less than an authentic view of college football’s soul.”
Peter Richmond, New York Times bestselling co-author of The Glory Game

“An elegantly written, admiring portrait of a still-young but impressive college football coach….The author’s knowledge of the game is evident throughout this well-paced account….[Sneed] is especially good at describing some of the changes that technology has wrought on college ball, which now has a vast audience—and also enables fans to get inside players’ heads through instant messaging and social media. Vigorous and smart, like its subject, and a special treat for Sooners fans.”
Kirkus Reviews

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Reviews from Goodreads

Brandon Sneed

Brandon Sneed is the author of Head in the Game: The Mental Engineering of the World’s Greatest Athletes. He has written for Bleacher Report, ESPN, GQ, and Outside, among other publications. His work has been recognized multiple times in Best American Sports Writing, and he was a finalist for the Livingston Award. He lives in Greenville, North Carolina.

image of Brandon Sneedo
Zachary Pomeroy