The Award-Winning Magazine Offering The Most Complete Coverage of Sooner Sports
  HOME FEATURE STORY SUBSCRIBE OU SPORTS IN THE NEWS COVER ARCHIVE WRITERS CONTACT US      ADVERTISE
More Recent Stories

All in the Family

Road Warrior

On Point

King's Corner

Sugar Bowl Review

Editorial

OU to meet Alabama in Sugar Bowl

Josh Heupel Q&A

Josh Heupel Q&A

Boomer Bio

The Closer

Sooner Success

Mike Stoops Q&A

Bill Bedenbaugh Q&A

Spring Football Review

Spring Football Review

To The Point

Boomer Bio: Julian Wilson

Boomer Bio: Chuka Ndulue

Boomer Bio: Bronson Irwin

Jalen Saunders Q&A

Patience Rewarded

Boomer Bio: Sterling Shepard

Taylor-made for Oklahoma

Tony Jefferson Q&A

Attention Getter

A Change of Plans

A Change of Plans

Proud Heritage

Hot Commodity

Boomer Bio; James Winchester

Boomer Bio; James Winchester

Boomer Bio: Aaron Ripkowski

Cornerstone

Playmaker

Playmaker

Strictly Striker

Javon Harris Q&A

Boomer Bio: Austin Haywood

Locked In & Loaded

Ben Habern Q&A

Landry Jones Q&A

The Classics

Top Ten Recruits

Bonus Prospects

Oklahoma Influences

Tight End Tough

Marquis On The Mark

Sooner Stars Set To Return

Jeremy Beal Q&A

Jamell Fleming Q&A

Boomer Bio: Trey Millard

Stacy McGee Q&A

Red River Tradition

Red River Tradition

James Patton Q&A

Boomer Bio: Eric Mensik

Quarterback Race

Quarterback Race

Boomer Bio: Kenny Stills

Boomer Bio: Marshall Musil

Getting His Kicks

Making The Right Moves In Recruiting

Bradford looks sharp in workout

No Doubt About It

Boomer Bio: Willie Martinez

Boomer Bio: Ronnell Lewis

Boomer Bio: Ronnell Lewis

Norman Bound

Showdown In The Sun

Jay Norvell Q&A

Jay Norvell Q&A

Boomer Bio: Dejuan Miller

Adrian Taylor doing just fine

Joseph Ibiloye Q&A

The Real Deal

Road Warrior

Meet Dusty Dvoracek This Saturday!

Casey Walker Q&A

Best of The Red River Rivalry

Bradford To Start Against Baylor

Facebook & Football

Tackling Machine

Keith Jackson Appearing this Friday in Norman

Josh Heupel Q&A

Boomer Bio: Stephen Good

Top Targets

Brent Venables Q&A

Boomer Bio: Cory Brandon

Tisdale and Griffin

Wayman Tisdale Dies

Sam Bradford Q&A

Auston English Q&A

Blake Griffin earns Naismith Award

Ryan Reynolds Q&A

The Wait Is Over

Outlook for 2009

Outlook for 2009

Staying Put

Bradford, Gresham, Williams Coming Back

Make Room For Sam

Lendy Holmes Q&A

Bradford Wins Heisman

Heisman Material

Boomer Bio: Frank Alexander

Sooners Headed To KC For Big 12 Title Game

Sudden Impact

Sudden Impact

Gerald McCoy Q&A

Gerald McCoy Q&A

Offensive linemen Roundtable

Boomer Bio: Mossis Madu

Boomer Bio: Mossis Madu

Travis Lewis Q&A

Travis Lewis Q&A

Auston English Q&A

Jackie Shipp Q&A

Bob Stoops Q&A

Boomer Bio

They’ve Got It Covered

Bradford Talks About Sooner Experience

Big Dreams

Plenty Of Things To Chew on this Offseason

Marcus Walker Q&A

Looking Ahead

Greater Expectations

Manny Being Manny

The Big Easy

Super Sidekick

English Lesson

Revved Up & Remodeled

Firmly Committed

A Cut Above

The Definition of Rivalry

On The Rise

Irresistible Force

Bookends

Bradford Named Starting QB

Venables Verbatim

Sooner Spectator & Rivals.com Teaming Up

Final Chapter

Catching Up With Sumlin

Welcome Back Little Joe

Wilson’s Defensive Wisdom

Reggie Smith Q&A

Malcolm Over The Middle

Fantastic Five

Thompson & Alexander To Sign Autographs

WE'RE BACK!!!!

GET READY FOR THE RETURN OF SOONER SPECTATOR!

OU’s Greatest

Boomer Bio: Brody Eldridge

Boomer Bio: Fred Strong

Dual Threat: Stephen Garcia

Thirty Reasons Why OU will beat Texas

Double Duty

Kody Cooke: A Conversation

Boomer Bio: Lendy Holmes

Welcome Back

Quick Five With Nic Harris

Road Warrior

The Opposition

Defensive Backing

Recruiting: Crimson Bloodline

Wilson Weighs In

Replacing Runnels?

Defensive Outlook

Top Shelf: Austin Box

Rufus Revelations

Reaction to Capel Hiring

A.D. Unscripted

OU will miss Sampson

OU Scrimmage Report

Joey Halzle Q&A

Gray, OU prep for The Dance

Moore is Better

Sooners eye stretch run

Haskell remains a lost treasure

Boomer Bio: Patty Gasso

Sherri Coale Conversation

Taylor Made

Future Considerations

McCoy becomes a Sooner

Michael Neal Q&A

Recruiting: Dominique Franks Q&A

Strong Willed

Football Recruiting Notes

Remembering Billy Ball

Enough Gloom & Doom

Back In Business

Endowed Scholarships Announced

USC or Texas: The Lesser of Two Evils?

Stoops is not leaving OU

Sooners down Ducks in Holiday Bowl

Biding His Time

Kelvin Sampson Q&A

Next Stop Division I

Boomer Bio: Allen Patrick

Chris Messner Q&A

Bob Stoops' take on Bedlam Victory

Terrance Anderson's Journey

OU vs. Tech: The Answers

OU vs. Tech Matchups

Road Warrior

Stoops talks about OU's 36-30 win

OU vs. A&M matchups

OU Coaches’ Roundtable

Recruiting: Derek Burton

Boomer Bio: Juaquin Iglesias

Carl Pendleton Q&A

Sooners topple Huskers in Lincoln

OU-Nebraska Matchups

Recruiting: Ugo Chinasa

Sooners top Baylor

OU vs. Baylor Matchups

Recruiting: Offensive Line

Recruiting: Adron Tennell

Sooners top Jayhawks

OU vs. Kansas Matchups

Boomer Bio

A Pleasant Conversation

Texas tops Oklahoma

Red River Rivarly Matchups

Dusty Dvoracek: In The Trenches

Sooners Roll Past K-State

OU vs. K-State Matchups

Recruiting: Replenishing The Backfield

Boomer Bio

Sooners give one away

Recruiting Demarco Murray

C.J. Ah You Q&A

The Answers: OU vs. Tulsa

Not Pretty, But Sooners Win

Spectator Sneak Preview

Bob Stoops' take on TCU loss

Texas Christian Sacks Sooners

Moses leads Sooner tight ends

Rufus Alexander Q&A

Thompson gets nod at QB

Birdine Lost For Season

Sampson to Visit Kuwait for Hoops with Troops

Walk-on making noise at WR

Travis Wilson Q&A

Clint Ingram Q&A

Sooners open fall practice

Brent Venables Q&A

Sooner single-game tickets go on sale Monday

Questions about Sooners' aura not surprising

Joseph talks about summer workouts

OU at Big 12 Media Days

Kim Named to U.S. Walker Cup Team

Sooners name Golloway

Stephenson decides to stay at Wichita State

Stephenson takes OU head baseball job

Soon to be Sooners

New Sooner Nic Harris excited about new digs

2005 Season Preview Issue Available Now!!

Letter from the Editor

Q and A

Ever Elusive

Sooner Selections

Ole Miss powers past Sooners

OU's Weekly Sports Report

OU inks JUCO point guard

OU's Kim wins Big 12 Golf Title

White and Vermeil talk about first day of rookie camp

White gets a chance with Kansas City

Red Rallies to Down White

Big crowd expected

Prelude To Greatness?

Breaking Down The Offense

Spring football eases pain




On Sale At Newsstands Now!
Make Room For Sam
Heisman Park’s heroic-sized statues honor legendary Sooner players, attract fans of all ages

Two hours before kickoff against Nebraska and there is a small pocket of quiet reverence on the east side of Memorial Stadium. Being in the presence of greatness automatically instills softer voices and hushed tones.

Sooner fans of all generations pose for pictures amongst the four, larger-than-life statues featured in Heisman Park. At times, people have to wait for a turn to snap a photo. Others wander through, stopping to read the player biographies etched in the granite base supporting each statue.

Established in September 2005, the park is a joint project between the University of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Centennial Commission to commemorate OU’s four Heisman Trophy winners — Steve Owens, Billy Sims, Jason White and the late Billy Vessels.

Of course, plans are already underway to create a fifth statue to honor 2008 Heisman winner Sam Bradford. A completion date for Bradford’s likeness has not been determined yet, but could come as soon as next fall or at some point beyond, depending on what the star quarterback decides to do with his football future.

In preparation of the state centennial celebration in 2007, the Oklahoma Centennial Commission oversaw more than a dozen statues around the state featuring notable Oklahomans. It was an effort to honor great achievements while paying tribute to the people and events that have shaped the state’s history.

So, while some schools honor their Heisman winners with plaques and jerseys in display cases or by showing highlights of winning campaigns on plasma screen televisions — with five Heisman trophy winners from one university — why not celebrate them altogether and in a different way?

That was the thought Lee Allan Smith had when he originally proposed the park plan. The chairman of Centennial Projects and Events credits a lot of people for putting the concept together but ultimately, establishing the first-of-its-kind park was his idea. The driving force behind it was OU’s first Heisman recipient.

“Billy Vessels was the inspiration for this project,” said Smith. “I knew him in school. We were doing a number of statues around the state for the centennial and I thought it was unusual to have so many Heisman winners from one school. We wanted to make these statues heroic-sized because these are OU heroes.”

The office of OU President David Boren selected the spot for the park, just north of the athletic dorms near the corner of Lindsey and Jenkins. Of course, space is available for more statues.

Each of the current statues was sculpted by an Oklahoma artist and the granite for the base comes from Granite, Okla. The Centennial Commission paid for all of the Heisman statues with donations coming from friends and teammates of the winners.

With each bronze costing approximately $65,000, Smith said the real heroes of the project are those people who put up the money to make it happen.

“We realize the incredible tradition at OU, and we wanted to honor our Heisman winners in a special way, in the shadows of one of the great stadiums of college football,” offered Joe Castiglione, OU director of athletics.

The Vessels statue, sculpted by Edmond artist Shan Gray, was the first to be unveiled in the park. As the first Sooner to win college football’s most prestigious award, the running back led his team to a 26-4-1 record during his career.

Vessels played under Bud Wilkinson from 1950, the year the Sooners won their first national championship, through 1952, the year he won the Heisman Trophy. A native of Cleveland, Okla., he ran for 2,085 yards and scored 35 touchdowns during that span.

Vessels passed away in 2000 at age 70.

His widow Susie Vessels said, “Billy was always proud to have been a Sooner and would have loved seeing his statue at the university he called home.”

Incidentally, the original Vessels statue unveiled in September 2005 now resides in Vessels’ hometown. It was one-and-a-half times larger than the human Vessels, but later was dwarfed by the addition of the three other statues which were much bigger. Additional funds were raised to replace the original with one matching the size of the others.

The statue of 1969 Heisman winner, running back Steve Owens, was designed by the late Oklahoma artist Nick Calcagno, formerly of Owens’ hometown of Miami. It was unveiled in September 2006.

As a sophomore, Owens captured the attention of his coaches by rushing for 813 yards, scoring a dozen touchdowns and earning All-Big Eight Conference Honors. He emerged on the national scene his junior year when he rushed for 1,516 years with a record 357 carries.

In 1968 and 1969 he was named Big Eight Conference Player of the Year, was a consensus All-American and was elected team co-captain of the ’69 Sooners. Owens earned the Walter Camp and Heisman trophies that year. He still holds the record for most carries in a game at 55 and career with 958. Owens also is the school’s all-time leading scorer with 57.

“Although I graduated 29 years ago, OU is still a second home to me,” he said during the unveiling. “I am grateful for this honor and thank all of those who made this statue possible.”

The Billy Sims statue was unveiled in September 2007 during a raucous and memorable ceremony that included his coach, Barry Switzer, donning an enormous afro wig.

The record-setting running back was recruited by Switzer and won the Heisman Trophy in 1978. Sims set records for rushing that year with 1,896 yards on 256 carries and lead the Sooners to an Orange Bowl win. He was named College Player of the Year by both Associated Press and United Press International, as well as All-American.

In 1980, Sims was the first pick in the National Football League draft.

A week after the Sims ceremony, the last piece of sculpture was unveiled during an emotional ceremony honoring the 2003 winner Jason White.
Today, White said he remains in awe of the bronze depiction of himself.

“It is weird to drive by the stadium and see that statue, to see all of those statues” he said. “It is unbelievable to have it, especially at such a young age.”

When he was informed about the plans for the park, White said his initial reaction was that it would be neat for himself and the other winners to be part of such a tradition. He was a bit surprised at the size.

“They told me it would be larger than life and I did not know what to expect,” he said. “The statues are really big.”

White’s sculpture was designed by Jay O’Meilia of Tulsa and White had a hand in selecting the pose.

“I was asked to pick a pose and for a quarterback, I thought throwing the ball would be best because I was known for throwing,” he said. “They had me recreate that pose, with the pads and everything, for pictures. The pictures were used as a model for the statue.”

Four years after finishing his astonishing and well-chronicled career at OU, White said even now, what he accomplished has not totally set in.

“When you are going through it at the time, you can’t see really what is going on because you are so busy, going to school and playing football,” White explained. “But it is more special now, very special, because then I did not have the time to stop and realize that what was happening, and its importance.”

Now, he has a bronze statue as a permanent reminder.

And now, Mr. Bradford waits in the wings after finishing off one of the greatest single-season performances in not only OU annals, but in college football history.

(Editor's Note: This story appears in the Limited Edition Heisman Trophy Issue soon to be released by Sooner Spectator. To purchase your copy, call toll free 1-877-841-8877 today)







Subscribe Today! Get our premier issue for free!