He was a pudgy quarterback on the Oklahoma Sooners freshman team, and my dorm roommate and I thought it laughable that this Steve Davis we watched play no-frill freshman games on the practice field would one day be the starting quarterback at OU.
In 1972, he was one of eight -- eight! -- quarterbacks listed on the Oklahoma roster, which numbered around 130. The year 1972 was the first year freshmen had been made eligible for NCAA play, part of the transition to 30-scholarship limits. But in 1972, the 45-per-year limits had Oklahoma's roster so bloated that it took a good five minutes for the Sooners to clear the tunnel leading to Owen Field before a home game.
Steve Davis was an absolute revelation as a college football player. In 1973, deftly operating OU's 3-year-old, precocious Wishbone offense, the eighth quarterback on OU's roster as a sophomore in 1972 led OU to an 11-0-1 record playing seven teams ranked in the Top 20. He would help lead OU to national titles in 1974 and '75 (and the '73 team might have been the best of that bunch) and finish with a phenomenal 32-1-1 record as a starting quarterback.
He was, quite simply, a terrific Wishbone quarterback, an affirmation that dreams and transformations do happen.
Steve Davis, age 60, died Sunday in a crash of a private jet in South Bend, Ind.
Perhaps Steve Davis' public parting gift to Sooner Nation came during the OU-Texas game in October.
Davis, in a TV interview during the game, gave his wholehearted blessing to Landry Jones, who, after a loss to Notre Dame, would find his own magic in a five-game OU winning streak that saved the 2012 season.
Steve Davis was recruited to OU, and possibly given the last scholarship for that class, out of Sallisaw, Okla., by Leon Cross, a co-captain of one of Bud Wilkinson's last OU team. The lightning-quick halfback who turned Davis' last-second pitchouts into points was Joe Washington, who inspired a young Bob Stoops, the current OU coach, to paint his cleats silver in homage. And Davis was the starting quarterback on Barry Switzer's first Sooners team.
Barry Switzer's statement on Monday, released by OU, on Davis' passing said in part:
"Back then I think we had 250 kids on the roster, and I believe Steve started out about eighth on the depth chart. Of course, we all know that he went on to post a 32-1-1 record and help us win two national championships. Steve was surrounded by great talent on those teams, but he was truly an exceptional leader.
"I was proud of him. The entire state of Oklahoma was proud of him. We still are."-- Vince Langford