Heisman Trophy Winners
The Heisman Trophy, named after the former college football coach John W. Heisman, is awarded annually to the most outstanding player in college football. Five Sooners have collected the prestigious honor.
Sam Bradford (2008)
Leading the most explosive offense in college football during the 2008 season, Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford completed 328 of his 483 pass attempts for 4,720 yards with eight interceptions and 50 touchdowns. He led the nation in passing efficiency and also scored five rushing touchdowns on the year.
Bradford, a sophomore, broke Jason White's school record for touchdowns in a season (50) and in a career (88). He threw for 468 yards against Kansas which ranks first in OU history for passing yards in a game.
In addition, Bradford surpassed Florida's Rex Grossman with most touchdowns through the freshman and sophomore year with 82.
Bradford became the fifth Sooner to win the award joining Jason White (2003), Billy Sims (1978), Steve Owens (1969) and Billy Vessels (1952). The Oklahoma City native earlier won the Davey O'Brien Award and Sammy Baugh Trophy in addition to being named a first-team All-American.
Jason White (2003)
Jason White became the trigger man for the country's most potent offensive attack. At a school where the points have flown like an Oklahoma gusher, White led the OU team that outscored all of its predecessors (601 total points).
He did so with uncanny accuracy, especially on deep throws, and a touchdown to interception ratio (four to one), so gaudy that it read like a typographical error.
White set school records at the time for touchdown passes in a season (40) and game (5, twice). His season passing total ranked No. 2 at OU. He was No. 4 nationally in touchdown percentage (8.87), No. 7 in passing efficiency (158.11), No. 18 in interception percentage (2.22) and No. 22 in total offense (264.0).
The outpouring of recognition was impressive. White captured player of the year honors from the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, and CNNSI.com. He also won the Davey O'Brien Award and the Jim Thorpe Courage Award.
White returned for another season after his Heisman campaign and finished third in the voting. It was an unprecedented finish by one school when his teammate Adrian Peterson finished second.
Billy Sims (1978)
Billy Sims, a 6-0, 205-pound junior from Hooks, Texas, swept through defenses like a tornado flying across the Oklahoma landscape. He set a Big Eight single-season rushing record in 1978 with 1,762 yards on 231 carries.
Sims led the nation in rushing, averaging more than 7.0 yards per carry. He topped the 200-yard mark in four different games (a school best) during the 1978 season. Sims led the Sooners to an 11-1 record, Orange Bowl Championship and third-place finish in the final poll.
OU opened with a 35-29 win over Stanford and then crushed West Virginia and Rice by a combined score of 118-17. The Sooners rolled over Texas and the first five games of the conference schedule heading into the Nebraska game. Sims ran for 153 yards, but it was not enough as the Sooners fell 17-14. OU responded by clubbing OSU, 62-7, and then was re-matched with the Cornhuskers in the Orange Bowl. OU edged Nebraska 31-24 in the second meeting between the top-10 schools.
Sims still ranks as OU's all-time career rushing leader with 4,118 yards from 1975-79 and No. 2 behind Steve Owens (57) on the career touchdowns list with 53.
* injured and granted additional year of eligibility
Steve Owens (1969)
Oklahoma's Steve Owens was a 6-2, 215-pound powerhouse from Miami, Okla., who ravaged defenses from 1967-69, setting four conference records of the day. OU's workhorse carried the ball 358 times in 1969 for 1,523 yards while scoring 23 touchdowns (another school record).
Playing on a 1969 squad that had been hurt badly by graduation in 1968, Owens carried the load for the Sooner offense. Owens had two 200-plus yard games while leading the Sooners to a 6-4 season. Spurred by Owens' effort, Oklahoma averaged 28.5 points a game in 1969.
The great career of Steve Owens left a mark on the OU record book. Owens holds five Sooner records. He is the school's all-time leading scorer with 57 touchdowns during his career. Owens holds the record for the most carries in a game (55) and career (958). He finished his career with 4,041 yards on the ground, the third most in school history.
Detroit drafted Owens in the first round. He was the first Lion to gain over 1,000 yards in a season and was an All-Pro selection in 1971 and 1972. In 1991, Owens was named to the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame and was the Walter Camp Foundation Alumnus of the Year. Owens was inducted into the Orange Bowl Hall of Honor in 1992.
Billy Vessels (1952)
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 the direction of 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, Okla., 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.
OU Football History & Tradition