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Oklahoma’s Greatest Football All-American (1953-1956)

Billy Vessels collected all but three votes for the era of 1951-1952 making him our strongest winner yet. He’ll most surely make a strong push through the second round as well.

Vessels_medium
Billy Vessels 1952

Following Vessels’ Heisman season in 1952 Oklahoma only had one player awarded All-American in 1953 but would then see eight more football players awarded the honor between 1954 and 1956 including Tommy McDonald who was named twice. This era would see another national championship for the Sooners and a player that many felt was deserving of the Heisman as well.

 

Here are the All-Americans from that era. Tell us which one you think to be the greatest.

 

J.D. Roberts, G - 1953
J.D. Roberts earned consensus All-America honors in 1953. An outstanding guard on both sides of the ball, Roberts received the Outland Trophy, given to the top lineman in the country, in 1953. Also during that year, he was named the consensus Lineman of the Year.

 

He adjusted to the college system quickly and became a starter during his sophomore year. An extremely rugged and aggressive athlete, Roberts was difficult to block, causing havoc for numerous offenses.

 

The two-time all-conference selection was drafted during the 17th round by the Green Bay Packers in 1954. He went on to coach the New Orleans Saints during 1972-74. He was inducted into the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame in 1993.

Kurt Burris, C/LB - 1954
Kurt Burris was named a consensus All-American in 1954. During that season the two-time all-conference selection finished with a total of 838 votes in Heisman Trophy voting, second to Wisconsin fullback Alan Ameche. Burris was named Player of the Year by the Helms and Citizens Savings Athletic Foundation.

 

His outstanding blocking and bone-crushing tackling were large components in the Sooners? undefeated season in 1954. Due to the Sooners' probation and two other undefeated teams, OU was denied the national title and finished third in the polls. Oklahoma finished seventh in total offense and fifth in total defense ahead of both the teams ranked first and second. Burris was named Lineman of the Year in 1954 by the Philadelphia Sports Writers.

 

He was the fourth player taken in the 1955 draft by the Cleveland Browns. He became OU's 14th player to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in December 2000.

Max Boydston, E - 1954
Max Boydston earned consensus All-America honors in 1954. Coming out of high school he was a fullback, but the Sooner coaches decided to move him to end. Considered one of the fastest big men on the team, Boydston had a number of big plays during his career.

 

In the final game of the 1953 season against Oklahoma A&M, he took the ball away from the Aggie quarterback coming around the end on a keeper and ran 43 yards for a touchdown. During the 1953 season he caught four passes for 88 yards, showing another element of his ability.

 

He was named the Lineman of the Year in 1954 by the Washington Touchdown Club. The three-time all-conference selection was the third player taken in the 1955 draft by the Chicago Cardinals.

Tommy McDonald, HB/DB - 1955, 1956
Tommy McDonald was named to the Associated Press All-America teams in both 1955 and 1956. During the 1955 season, the two time all-conference selection became the first OU player to score a touchdown in every game of a season.

The explosive running back from Albuquerque, N.M., received a number of awards during his career, including the 1956 Maxwell Memorial Award and The Sporting News award. Both awards are given to the player of the year. McDonald was inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 1985.

 

Not only a great running back, McDonald was also a deadly passer. He completed 28 of 44 passes during his career, good for a 72% average.

He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles during the third round in 1957. He was inducted into the National Football League Hall of Fame in 1998.

Bo Bolinger, G - 1955
Bo Bolinger was named a consensus All-American in 1955. He was a member of a group that came to be known as the "B Boys." Bolinger, along with Kurt and Robert Burris and Max Boydston, were from Muskogee and had been playing together since high school.

 

Bolinger was a key to an offensive line that led Oklahoma to a national title in 1955. Oklahoma finished first nationally in rushing and total offense. During that season, Bolinger finished ninth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

 

He was drafted in the 13th round by the Chicago Cardinals in 1956.

Jerry Tubbs, C/LB - 1956
Jerry Tubbs earned consensus All-America honors in 1956. Many people felt he deserved the honor in 1955, as well.

 

After the Sooners soundly defeated the Terrapins in the 1956 Orange Bowl to win the national title, Miami Daily News writer Ralph Warner wrote: "Jerry Tubbs took the decision over Bob Pellegrini, the Maryland All-America, in the battle of the centers. Pellegrini was outstanding, but Tubbs was even more so with a brilliant all-around performance."

 

Not only a great blocker, Tubbs established himself as one of the top pass defenders in the country with his three interceptions against Texas in 1955. During 1956, Tubbs was the first Sooner to receive the Walter Camp Award, given to the player of the year, and was also named Lineman of the Year by UPI.

He was the third player taken in the 1957 draft by the Chicago Bears. He became the 12th Sooner player to be inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame on Dec. 10, 1996.

Bill Krisher, G - 1956, 1957
Bill Krisher earned consensus All-America honors in 1957, after being selected by Sports Illustrated in 1956.

 

He was a large contributor to the offense that led the country in rushing offense and total offense in 1955 and '56. His play on both offense and defense was a large part of the Sooners' national titles during both of those years.

 

He opened up many of the holes that helped Clendon Thomas earn the scoring title in 1956. "Bill goes out after 'em and drives right on through 'em instead of just standing up to block 'em. I've never seen a blocker like him," Thomas said.

The two-time all-conference selection was drafted in the third round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1958.

Ed Gray, G - 1956
Ed Gray earned All-America honors in 1956. He was an exceptional blocker. HB Tommy McDonald benefited many times from the holes Gray opened, sometimes taking out two opponents by himself.

 

"Our line is the best. I'm proud to run behind 'em," McDonald commented.

The statistics don't disagree. The Sooners led the nation in rushing and total offense during both of their national champion seasons of 1955 and '56. Gray was selected to the all-conference team of 1955 and '56.

 

The Los Angeles Rams drafted him in the seventh round in 1957.

 

Poll

Who was Oklahoma's greatest football All-American from 1953-1956?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    J.D. Roberts, G - 1953
    (2 votes)
  • 9%
    Kurt Burris, C/LB - 1954
    (4 votes)
  • 4%
    Max Boydston, E - 1954
    (2 votes)
  • 64%
    Tommy McDonald, HB/DB - 1955, 1956
    (27 votes)
  • 0%
    Bo Bolinger, G - 1955
    (0 votes)
  • 9%
    Jerry Tubbs, C/LB - 1956
    (4 votes)
  • 4%
    Bill Krisher, G - 1956, 1957
    (2 votes)
  • 2%
    Ed Gray, G - 1956
    (1 vote)
42 votes total Vote Now