Oklahoma Football: The 20 Most Beloved Figures in OU History
The Oklahoma Sooners are a college football program steeped in tradition.
The team was started in 1895 by a student from Kansas who played football back in his home state. After 10 years, the program got more serious and hired their first permanent coach, Bennie Owen, and the team grew from there.
In the program's history, the Sooners have amassed a total of 811 wins to just 304 losses, winning 43 conference titles, seven national championships and producing five Heisman Trophy winners.
The team has become a mainstay in BCS bowls under current head coach Bob Stoops, and its players are consistently picked in the NFL Draft.
Finding 20 of the most beloved figures from a school that is based so much in tradition is a tough task, but here is my list counting down to No. 1.
20. Joe Washington, RB
Joe Washington may not have as many accolades as some of the players on this list, but his rushing ability while at Oklahoma was impressive.
Washington finished with more than 4,000 yards rushing as a Sooner, finishing third in Heisman voting in 1974 and fifth in voting in 1975.
He was a two-time First-Team All-American with the Sooners and sits second on their all-time rushing list behind Billy Sims.
19. Quentin Griffin, RB
Quentin Griffin was one of those players who could do it all.
The fifth-leading rusher in Sooners history, Griffin purposely finished second behind Billy Sims for the school's all-purpose yardage record. Griffin was First-Team All-Big 12 in 2002 and also was on the All-Academic Team the same year.
Griffin finished his Oklahoma career with 44 rushing touchdowns and played four seasons in the NFL with two different teams.
18. Derrick Strait, CB
Derrick Strait played four seasons at Oklahoma and was one of the nation's top cornerbacks during his career as a Sooner.
Strait started every game in his four-year stint at Oklahoma, winning the 2003 Bronko Nagurski Trophy, the Jim Thorpe Award and was a two-time All-American.
Strait holds a team record by recovering five fumbles in a single season, but his professional career was not as successful. His most recent playing action came in 2009 when he was signed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League, but he was released during training camp.
17. Tommie Harris, DT
Tommie Harris was a feared defensive tackle in his time at Oklahoma because he was able to plug the run and get to the quarterback.
In 2003, Harris won the Lombardi Award, which goes to the nation's top lineman and was named to the Sports Illustrated All-Decade Team in 2009.
Harris was drafted by the Chicago Bears with the No. 14 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, and he was selected to three Pro Bowls. He is currently a free agent after being released in February.
16. Billy Vessels, RB
Oklahoma's first and most unknown Heisman Trophy winner, Billy Vessels played for the Sooners under legendary coach Bud Wilkinson.
Vessels helped lead the Sooners to a 1950 national championship by scoring 15 touchdowns.
In 1952, Vessels won the school's first Heisman Trophy, rushing for 1,072 yards and 17 touchdowns, and was named to the College Football Hall of Fame.
15. Keith Jackson, TE
A College Football Hall of Fame inductee and possibly the best tight end in Sooners' history, Keith Jackson may be best known for his play in the 1986 Orange Bowl.
Jackson caught two touchdowns in the national championship win against Penn State, including a 71-yard catch. He was voted Offensive Player of the Century at Oklahoma and is in the top-15 in receiving yards as a Sooner.
Jackson played nine seasons in the NFL with three different teams, including a Super Bowl XXXI win with the Packers. He was also a six-time Pro Bowl selection.
14. Lee Roy Selmon, DL
Coach Barry Switzer said Lee Roy Selmon was the best player he ever coached, and when looking at the amount of accolades awarded to Selmon, it may be a tough argument.
The defensive lineman played with his two brothers Lucious and Dewey on the Oklahoma defense starting in 1972, and the man known as the "Gentle Giant" took off from there.
Winner of the Lombardi and Outland trophies and a consensus First-Team All-American in 1975, Selmon went on to make six Pro Bowls in his nine years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
13. Ryan Broyles, WR
The only current Oklahoma player on this list, Ryan Broyles tops the school's all-time receiving yards list with 3,429 yards and still has one more year to go.
Broyles sits just 1,577 yards shy of passing all-time NCAA receiving yards leader Trevor Insley of Nebraska, a record that is certainly obtainable with Landry Jones at quarterback and a dominant offense under coach Bob Stoops.
Broyles can use the 2011 season to become one of the best receivers in NCAA history and help his Sooners to a possible eighth national championship.
12. Roy Williams, DB
Roy Williams became one of the most feared hitters in the NFL, but before he was playing for the Dallas Cowboys, Williams roamed the defensive backfield at Oklahoma.
Williams was named "Superman" at Oklahoma because of the play he made in the 2001 Red River Rivalry game against Texas. Williams knocked the ball out of Texas quarterback Chris Simms' hands, and the ball was recovered in the end zone by Teddy Lehman to seal the game for the Sooners.
Williams won the Bronko Nagurski Award in 2001 as the nation's best defensive player and also won the Jim Thorpe Award for best defensive back in the same season.
11. Teddy Lehman, LB
Teddy Lehman came to Oklahoma as a freshman and started his career off playing in all 13 games and earning First-Team All-Freshman honors.
He replaced Dick Butkus Award-winner Ricky Calmus in his sophomore season at weak-side linebacker and never looked back.
Lehman sits as one of the best linebackers in Oklahoma history, and his senior season he was awarded the Dick Butkus Award, the Chuck Bednarik Award for best defensive player and was a consensus First-Team All-American.
10. Brian Bosworth, LB
Brian "The Boz" Bosworth is one of the most controversial players in Oklahoma football history, but he was also was a standout linebacker during coach Barry Switzer's tenure.
Bosworth was known for his crazy hairstyles, and his criticism of college football and the NCAA. He was banned from the game because of steroid use and was thrown off the team by Switzer after wearing a controversial t-shirt on the sidelines.
Bosworth is the only two-time winner of the Butkus Award, (he won the first two that were ever awarded) and was named to the Sports Illustrated All-Century Team in 1999.
9. Steve Owens, RB
Fourth on Oklahoma's all-time rushing list, Steve Owens was the second player from the university to win the Heisman Trophy.
Owens, who played at Oklahoma from 1967-1969, was the program's all-time leading scorer with 57 touchdowns until his mark was beaten by DeMarco Murray in 2010. Owens also has the most 100-yard games in Sooners history with 23.
He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 1970 NFL Draft, but was forced to retire after injuries plagued his professional career.
8. Adrian Peterson, RB
Adrian Peterson may eventually be remembered for his play in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings, but his college career was just as successful.
The running back spent just three years at Oklahoma, but ended just 73 yards short of the school's all-time rushing record.
He holds the Oklahoma record for most yards in a season when he rushed for 1,925 yards as a freshman in 2004 and was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. His next two years at Oklahoma were shortened by injuries, but he still rushed for more than 1,000 yards both seasons.
7. Bob Stoops, Coach
The current coach of Oklahoma, Bob Stoops has become one of the biggest coaching names in college football.
Winner of the 2000 national championship, Stoops has won seven Big 12 championships with the Sooners, and the team is a consistent powerhouse in college football.
He has taken Oklahoma to 12 consecutive bowl games, including eight BCS bowl games. Stoops has never had a losing season at Oklahoma and has finished with double-digit wins in nine of his seasons with the Sooners.
6. Jason White, QB
Jason White took college football by storm in 2003, throwing for 40 touchdowns and just eight interceptions while leading his Sooners to the first of two consecutive national championship games.
White also won the Davey O'Brien Award twice and was a consensus All-American in 2003.
Injuries plagued White's career though, and he was never able to win a national championship in his two tries.
White was not drafted in the NFL despite his successful college career, but had tryouts with both the Chiefs and Titans before he decided to end his football career.
5. Josh Heupel, QB
Josh Heupel may not have been a Heisman Trophy winner like Jason White, but he led his Sooners to a national championship, Bob Stoops' first and only, in 2000.
Heupel ranks fourth all-time in passing yards in Oklahoma history, winning the AP Player of the Year Award and the Walter Camp Award following a superb senior season in which he threw for 3,606 yards.
Heupel was a junior college transfer student from Snow College in Utah before becoming one of Oklahoma's best quarterbacks.
4. Billy Sims, RB
Billy Sims was a freak at running back for the Sooners when he came to school in the late 1970's. Recruited by Barry Switzer, Sims was kept out of his freshman season and half of his sophomore season because of injuries, but he was able to explode in his junior season.
Sims won the Heisman Trophy in 1978 following his junior season in which he gained 1,896 yards. He was runner-up for the Heisman his senior year as well.
Oklahoma's all-time leading rusher ended his career with 4,118 total yards rushing and is considered by many to be one of the best college football players of all time.
3. Sam Bradford, QB
Sam Bradford ranks first in Oklahoma history in just about every passing statistic, including touchdowns, efficiency, completion percentage and yards.
The 2008 Heisman Trophy winner left school after his junior season and was taken with the No. 1 pick by the St. Louis Rams in the 2010 NFL Draft.
His career at Oklahoma ended on a sour note though after he was injured in the rivalry game against Texas before season-ending shoulder surgery.
2. Bud Wilkinson, Coach
Coach Bud Wilkinson put Oklahoma football on the map.
Taking over in 1947, Wilkinson led the Sooners to a 7-2-1 record in his first season, winning his first of 13 consecutive conference titles.
His biggest accomplishment at Oklahoma was a 47-game winning streak, which still stands as the longest winning streak in college football history. The next-closest streak comes from the 1969-1971 Toledo teams that won 35 straight games. Wilkinson's Sooners teams also won 74 consecutive conference games from 1947-1958.
Wilkinson spent 17 seasons in Norman and is widely considered one of the best coaches in college football history.
1. Barry Switzer, Coach
The Sooners' all-time winningest coach, Switzer won three national championships at Oklahoma during his tenure from 1973-1988.
Switzer though chose to resign after the NCAA put Oklahoma on probation because of scandals, including the arrest of Charles Thompson after he offered cocaine to undercover FBI agents.
Switzer cemented his legacy in Oklahoma history with eight bowl wins and 12 conference championships, while also out-coaching big-name coaches such as Jimmy Johnson, Tom Osborne and Bobby Bowden.
He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002 following a brief stint as coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
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