Wednesday March 20, 2013

NORMAN, Okla. -- As a child, Steve Davis dreamed of playing for Oklahoma and even tucked away a picture of the Sooners’ quarterback he idolized in his dresser drawer.

Decades later, he is among the standard-bearers for the position at one of college football’s most storied programs. Davis, who started every game during Barry Switzer’s first three seasons as head coach and won national championships in 1974 and 1975, died Sunday in a plane crash in South Bend, Ind. He was 60.

Davis compiled a remarkable 32-1-1 record in three years as the Sooners’ starter. The Sooners went 11-0 in 1974, then won the national title again the following year after going 11-1.

Switzer recounted how Davis wasn’t highly regarded as a high school player and was recruited simply as an athlete before he caught the coach’s eye during a freshman game, back when first-year players were ineligible to play. Switzer turned to offensive coordinator Galen Hall and remarked that he might have found a quarterback.

Davis worked as a television sports commentator after his career was over, including game day telecasts for Sooners games last season. During his college career, he spoke at a Billy Graham event.

Davis’ parents, Jim and Patsy Davis of Sallisaw, said their son loved to fly and had earned a pilot’s license but did not own a plane.


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Davis’ father described him as a booster with enough clout that "he had a lot of input in the athletic department."

A product of a different era, Davis hardly had to throw a pass to be the star quarterback in Oklahoma’s dominant wishbone offense. He completed just 40 percent of his passes during his career for 2,034 yards, but only attempted about six passes per game during Oklahoma’s back-to-back championship seasons.

With silver-shoed All-American Joe Washington carrying the ball, the Sooners rushed 813 times in 1974 -- averaging an NCAA record 73.9 attempts per game -- and amassing 438.8 yards on the ground. Davis’ school records for consecutive starts (34) and career victories (32) were surpassed only last season by Landry Jones, who started every game the past three seasons plus most of 2009 while replacing injured Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford.

In the process, Davis reached out to Jones, who had been criticized after an early season loss to Kansas State by writing him a letter; Davis had been booed during the only loss of his career, a 23-3 setback to Kansas in 1975. Jones would go on to break Davis’ career record for wins by beating Texas, also joining Davis, Jimmy Harris and Jamelle Holieway as the only Sooners’ quarterbacks to go 3-0 in Red River Rivalry starts.

Davis had the unique accomplishment of also going 3-0 against Nebraska and Oklahoma State, two of the Sooners’ other chief rivals.