By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
Former Oklahoma quarterback Steve Davis’ untimely death in a plane crash in South Bend, Ind., brings some harsh realities to life.
Real-life heroes do have mortality.
Davis is just one of several from the Sooners’ 1974 and 1975 national championship teams who have died too soon, including All-American linebacker Rod Shoate, All-American defensive tacle Lee Roy Selmon, center Dennis Buchanan, cornerback Jerry Anderson, offensive tackle-guard Jaime Melendez and Davis’ brother, George, a walk-on linebacker known as one of the team’s jokesters.
That’s scary stuff for someone like me who was writing for the Oklahoma Daily (OU student newspaper) when the Sooners were going 32-1-1 with Davis as the quarterback.
Former State Sen. Norman Lamb (R-Enid) remembers one of Davis’ visits to Enid after he had a rough plane flight from Norman.
“He laughed that one of these days he would get killed in a plane crash,’’ Lamb said. “What a tragedy.’’
But let’s not remember how Davis died, but how he lived.
“He was the poster boy for University of Oklahoma football,’ said Lamb, a Sooner booster.
He also was a licensed minster, who joked he learned the words to “Boomer Sooner’’ at the same time he learned “Amazing Grace.’’
Davis was asked to give the pregame prayer when OU played Michigan in the 1976 Orange Bowl.
UCLA had upset No. 1-ranked Ohio State in the Rose Bowl the game before, giving the Sooners a shot at the national championship.
The P.A. announcer announced the score, greeted by cheers from the Sooner Nation, after Davis had begun the prayer.
Undaunted, Davis resumed the prayer and then guided the Sooners to a 14-6 win over Michigan for his second national title.
Davis may have never been All-Big Eight, but how many quarterbacks can say have they more national championships (2) than losses in his career?
The 1975 season was not an easy one. OU had some close calls, including a 21-20 squeaker over Colorado when the Buffs missed an extra point in the last minute.
The Sooners ran out the clock admist booing from their own fans.
“Are they booing us?,’’ asked guard Terry Webb in the huddle.
“They’re not booing Colorado,’’ Davis replied.
Davis never lacked confidence, even after guiding the Sooners to a 10-0-1 record as a sophomore, with many saying he would return to the bench in 1974 with the return of Kerry Jackson.
Jackson had been impressive in brief stints as a freshman and was set to be the starter until he was grounded when it was revealed his transcript had been altered for him to be eligible.
Davis told a Tulsa crowd if they were wondering who the starting quarterback would be that fall, they were looking at him.
He was right, taking OU to back-to-back national championships.
EHS choir director Randy Johnson, who was in elementary school at the time, remembered when Davis took time to throw passes to grade school children while in Enid for an FCA function.
People don’t forget an act of kindness like that.
Davis would go on to be a successful broadcaster on both ABC and CBS and once hosted the Barry Switzer Show. He still was the country boy from Sallisaw Sooner fans loved.
We’ll remember the joy he had playing.
He will be missed, but we’ll always have the memories.
Campbell is News & Eagle sports writer.