The University of Oklahoma - Oklahoma Football

Billy Vessels

Billy "Curly" Vessels was the man who started it all. The first Sooner to win college football's most prestigious individual achievement award, Vessels led the Sooners to a 26-4-1 record during his tenure.

The 1950 Sooners, under head coach Bud Wilkinson, went 10-1 to give the Sooners their first of seven national championships. As a sophomore, Vessels started on the 1950 squad, scoring 15 touchdowns.

But Vessels' most successful individual season came during his senior campaign when he won the Heisman Trophy. Vessels rushed for 1,072 yards on 167 carries and scored 17 touchdowns.

Creating a new meaning for the word "versatile," the Cleveland, OK, slasher was part of every phase of the Sooner offensive attack. Vessels was even a threat from above. "Curly" connected on seven passes for two touchdowns in 1952.

The 1952 Sooners went 8-1-1, finishing fourth in the nation, and won Oklahoma's ninth conference title. OU opened with a 21-21 tie with Colorado and then reeled off five straight wins, averaging 46 points a game. OU dropped a 27-21 decision to Notre Dame and then finished strong by sweeping the last three games.

In 1953, Vessels turned pro for the Edmonton Eskimos and won the Schenley Award as the top player in Canada. Vessels then served as an officer in the U.S. Army. Vessels was elected to the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame in 1974.


Year Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds TD
1950 152 938 6.1 13 13 250 2
1951 27 143 5.3 1 3 -3 1
1952 167 1.072 6.4 17 7 165 1
Totals 346 2,153 6.3 31 23 412 4



1. Billy Vessels, Sr., RB, Oklahoma 525 Points (98 1st, 91 2nd, 49 3rd place votes)
2. Jack Scarbaugh, Sr., QB, Maryland 367
3. Paul Giel, Jr., TB, Minnesota 329
4. Don Moomaw, Sr., LB, UCLA 257
5. John Lattner, Jr., HB, Notre Dame 253
6. Paul Cameron, Jr., HB, UCLA 218
7. Jim Sears, Sr., HB, Southern California 173
8. Don McAuliffe, Sr., HB, Michigan State 164
9. Don Heinrich, Sr., QB, Washington 153
10. Tom Catlin, Sr., C, Oklahoma 150
© University of Oklahoma Department of Intercollegiate Athletics