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Baylor's Kendal Briles forging own path at his dad's side

Kendal Briles, right, has shown a knack for developing players working under his father, Art. AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

WACO, Texas -- Kendal Briles sits at his office desk, as the sun sets on the practice field through the window behind him.

He’s the last man still in the football office. His father, Art Briles, a towering figure in Waco most credited with turning Baylor football from a laughingstock into no laughing matter, has just left.

Kendal, however, still has work to be done on this evening before he’ll head home.

"That’s my boss," he says of his dad. "I’m going to make sure I do everything right in his eyes. I’m always holding myself to a very high standard."

Playing, then coaching for a man with such high standards has never been easy. But those high standards spurred Kendal to capture a state championship while manning quarterback for his dad at Stephenville High School.

They led to his dad hiring him to coach receivers at Baylor, where he helped recruit and develop six different All-Big 12 receivers.

And they prompted his dad to promote him to offensive coordinator in December when Phillip Montgomery left to become the head coach at Tulsa.

Kendal has always been proud to be Art’s son. But he never wanted to be known as that, either.

"Like he’s always told me, everyone is looking at me wanting me to fail," Kendal said. "He wanted me to be great, and he knew it was going to be harder on me to be great because of the position he was in. He instilled the work ethic into me and showed me what I needed to do on my own to accomplish the things I wanted to do."

So far, Kendal has been forging his own path while remaining at his dad’s side.

No one has been more instrumental than Kendal in cultivating Baylor’s budding claim to "Wide Receiver U." Last year, he landed arguably the top receiving class in the country with a quartet of ESPN 300 signees, including Freshman All-American KD Cannon. This season, the Bears likely will boast one of the nation’s best one-two punches at the position in Cannon and Corey Coleman, who was All-Big 12 as a sophomore in 2014.

"He’s been one of the best recruiters, not only in the Big 12, but in the nation," Art said. "He’s got a knack for getting good guys in here, then coaching the heck out of them."

For that reason, and the fact Kendal had been the passing game coordinator the previous three years, the decision to promote him to offensive coordinator was an easy one, even if it was also difficult.

"I wanted to keep him," Art said. "If I didn’t hire him as an OC, somebody else was.

"He was the best guy for the job."

Kendal showed that in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. Because of a fourth-quarter collapse, the Bears lost the game to Michigan State. But in Kendal’s debut calling plays, Baylor put up 583 yards and 41 points against one of the nation’s premier defenses.

"He would not keep me on staff if I didn't do a good job for him, bottom line," Kendal said. "The only thing he cares about is winning games at Baylor, bottom line. If he feel I wasn’t doing a good job, I wouldn’t be here."

The Briles’ have a unique father-son relationship in that they rarely act as father and son. Kendal calls his dad "Coach" or "Sir," even away from football. Art simply refers to him as "Coach KB."

"For us, it’s just the way it is," Kendal said. "I’ve played for my dad since I was 16 years old, so it’s always been a deal where I haven’t called him 'dad.' Maybe one day we’ll have that father-son relationship. I know it’ll happen at some point. But right now, we’re both just doing everything we can to make sure Baylor is in the best hands."

That doesn’t mean it’s always about business. The only thing Art loves more than being a football coach is being a grandpa. He gets to be that often with Kendal and Sarah’s three young children around. Art has a fourth grandchild from Baylor assistant coach Jeff Lebby, who is married to Art’s daughter.

"That’s a huge benefit for my wife and I," said Art, who is "Rah-Roh" to his grandkids. "Simply for the fact Kendal didn’t have the opportunity to be around my parents. It’s a great benefit for us. It’s family."

Kendal never knew his grandparents. They were killed in a car accident six years before he was born on their way to watching Art play for the Houston Cougars against SMU in the 1976 Cotton Bowl.

"He doesn’t really ever talk about it," Kendal said. "The last couple years people have started to do the interviews and you see him on TV a little bit, where you can see him get a little emotional. For me and my two sisters, he never really talked about it. I know for me personally, about the most I ever heard him say was, 'My dad sure would have loved to have seen you play.' I know for him to even say anything like that, it really meant a lot.

"Now that I see him as a grandpa, I can tell he wished that we were able to grow up and have that in our lives. I think that’s why it’s so special to him now, to do that with my kids."

Eventually, Kendal might move on, perhaps someday to take a head coaching job of his own. But he's not ready to leave his dad's side yet. Together, they're still building something special at Baylor.

"We feel like we have everything in place here to take the next step," Kendal said.

"Even above winning a Big 12 championship."