Yesterday, I was presented with the incredible opportunity of interviewing an Oklahoma Sooners football legend and the man behind the most iconic play in the long history of the Red River Shootout. Here’s my conversation with the great Roy Williams.
Kartik: So I know you’re going to be in Dallas during the weekend for an Allstate charity event and I definitely want to hear from you about that, but I was hoping we’d take a few minutes to talk about OU football. It’s a big week for all of us leading up to the Texas game, and you, in particular, have had a couple of big weeks in Dallas...
Roy: Yeah, shoot, let’s do it!
Kartik: So, how do you see the OU/Texas rivalry now as opposed to when you were playing in it? The stakes were higher in most years at that time, with both teams ranked in the top 5, sometimes top 3, nationally. Do you feel the rivalry has diminished since then?
Roy: Oh, it’s the same, honestly. If I was in school now, regardless of the records, it’s always about the bragging rights that you’ve beat Texas, or vice versa, which I’m not gonna say out loud because I don’t wanna speak that to an existence. But, yeah, the rivalry is still the same, I mean the atmosphere, just the whole build-up of the game — that’s not gonna go anywhere. I mean, these are two schools that are rich in tradition, you know, so it’s gonna be fireworks when we play, regardless. Regardless of records. Let’s throw records out of the window, because that does not matter. It’s OU/Texas weekend, and it’s about to go down!
Kartik: Alright, so with that said, honestly speaking, how many times a day do people ask you about The Superman Play from 2001?
Roy: (Laughs) I don’t know per day, probably not every day, but a month? Probably at least a good hundred to 200 people, maybe?
Kartik: OK, so pretty much everybody who sees you who recognizes you is going to ask you about that play, then?
Oh, yeah, either they say “I was in the end zone when that happened,” or “I have a picture of you”. Some people will straight tell me, “Hey, bro (honest), your picture is over my toilet in my bathroom!” I’m like, “That’s great, man, that’s a great image (laughing). Thank you very much for sharing that with me”.
Kartik: Well, I guess there could be plenty of other things to be remembered for...
Roy: (Laughing) I guess so.
Kartik: So, to get you talking about that play, just what was going through your head, what were you seeing, what were you thinking when you decided to jump over Brett Robin and right onto Chris Simms?
Roy: I really wasn’t, I wasn’t thinking anything. I was maybe thinking, “Well, we have ‘em backed up, they’re coming with a blitz”. Thinking, “Oh my gosh, I get to blitz. This is awesome!”. And I knew that Brett Robin was gonna cut me. So, I wanted to get a nice, little running start on the blitz, and I did. I think he was back five yards, so I mean, I kind of had the advantage of when to, you know, take flight... And when I was in the air, I was all eyes on Chris, basically the back of his helmet. And you know, you’re taught to secure the tackle and swipe the ball, and that’s what I did. I secured the tackle, I swiped the ball. The ball fluttered into Teddy’s hands, which was an early Christmas gift... And he walked it in, and the game was over.
Kartik: Yeah, it was just a storybook play. I was actually a student at the time and remember watching it and thinking it was about as clean, as you said, of a tackle and a swipe-away. It was as clean as it got. Going off that, when you see the style of offense that's being played predominantly in the Big 12 nowadays, what comes to your mind? Would you enjoy playing against these kinds of offenses week in and week out?
Roy: Well, so I’m gonna ask you a question: Do I get to go back to the old rules where we could horse collar? I call those the horse collar rules.
Kartik: (Laughing) Ok, well, so I guess what I mean is how different do you feel the league looks these days as opposed to when you were playing?
Roy: Well, it’s a whole lot different. I mean, they run a bunch more plays within a game, and then they run a lot of empty and four-wides, which is not a problem to me. I asked the question about the horse collar because that was one of my ways of tackling, and you know, sometimes, when you’re on a speedy receiver and they catch an out and you’re in the trail position, the only thing you do is reach. And if that was the case, then I wouldn’t like to play in today’s game. But if I was able to tackle the way I normally tackle, then I most definitely would play in this type of defense and against these offenses.
Kartik: I see, that’s an interesting point. Speaking of, are there any guys on the OU defense right now, maybe some hard hitters who remind you of yourself?
Roy: Hmm.. Well, I would say I like Obo. I like Caleb Kelly. When he hits someone, Steven Parker, I like. When he dials in and takes his time on a hit... Yeah, those are some of the guys I can think of right now.
Kartik: Right on, it’s a really encouraging young group that’s in place right now. Are you able to be in touch very much with the players and the program these days? Do you get to visit much, and have you had a chance to meet and talk much with Coach Lincoln Riley?
Roy: Yeah, I’ve spent a lot of time, especially now that I’m back in school. I’ve spent a lot of time up there. So, yes I spend time up there, and I talk to the coaches. I sit in on some coaches’ meetings, and I mean, I talk to some of the players, as well... Just giving them a little insight on what they should be looking for before plays happen.
Kartik: I hope they’re all ears. What would you say makes Lincoln Riley unique in what he brings to the program?
Roy: Just his knowledge of the game, his play-calling and, honestly, his youth. He’s very energetic. He’s upbeat. And he can keep up with, you know, these young men in the locker room, I can tell you that.
Kartik: Definitely, I’d say he’s definitely all of those things, and his knowledge of social media, how he’s impacted recruiting...He just seems tailor-made for this era.
Roy: Yeah, he is. And you know, it was sad to see Coach Bob leave. But he passed the torch to a great coach. I’ll say that.
Kartik: Were there any particular memories, any moments with Coach Stoops that really stuck out to you? I’m sure there were quite a few, but I try to ask the guys who played for him that question and got some good answers during Big 12 Media Days from Steven Parker, Obo and Orlando. What about you, being one of his original guys?
Roy: Wow... I just thought of going back to when I played, you know, Bob was always protecting the guys. I always remember some practices he’d just look at me and shake his head, because of me going against Coach Mangino and Leach’s offenses, and I would just literally mess up the whole package for the offenses. I remember coaches saying, “He’s gonna hurt somebody”. So Coach Stoops would have to say “It’s OK, let ‘em execute their play, Roy.” So I’d just smile and say, “I’m not gonna let them execute if they’re not gonna do that in a game!”
Kartik: That’s awesome! Take it easy on ‘em, Roy. Oklahoma has recruited the state of California very well in recent years. As a California native yourself, what sets OU apart from some of the schools on the West Coast, and why were the Sooners so appealing to you coming out of high school?
Roy: Well, honestly, when I was coming out, Oklahoma wasn’t even on my radar until my buddy got hurt, Damien Mackey. So, just to be transparent and honest, I wasn’t even thinking about Oklahoma. But when my aunt, she worked at the cafeteria, gave our highlight tape to some people, Joe D., I can’t remember exactly who all, but anyway, then they started recruiting us. Then, after being here on our recruiting visit, being with Rocky (Calmus), Trent (Smith) and all the guys that basically helped bring that winning tradition back... You know, it was just good to be around those guys and understanding what Oklahoma is. It’s about family. It’s about legacy. And it was just cool to be around that. Because in California, everything is so, so fast. Everything is ‘You gotta get there, you gotta do this’, and Oklahoma is more of a slow pace, and everybody is more laid back, more my style. It was awesome to be around those guys. I mean, Oklahoma is so appealing because you don’t have to get caught up in the hoopla of the flashy lights. Oklahoma is, you know, it’s just a well-kept secret. But our play on the field is not a secret. We’re phenomenal and were doing great things.
Kartik: And you were definitely a big reason for that, bringing OU back. You were part of the group that resurrected the program, so to speak. So, I’m definitely glad you made that decision, of course. As we’re wrapping things up, we’ve got a few minutes left so I wanted to give you a chance to talk about the “All Hands In” program you’re involved in with Allstate. I believe you and Priest Holmes are among the folks doing some charity work that includes renovating a children’s park in Lancaster?
Roy: Yes, sir, that’s right. And anybody who wants to come out and hang out with us, please come on out. We could use some more hands, for sure. We’re going to be in Lancaster, and we’re actually putting a park together. Basically, back when I was in Dallas playing, Lancaster wasn’t the best of areas, and I’m happy we’re able to partner with Allstate. Allstate actually asked me, which I feel very privileged and lucky to be a part of building a park for these young kids. When I played back in Dallas and in Oklahoma, I was always one of the first people to raise my hands to give back to the community. I’d go read to kids or, you know, just do something outside of myself. So when I got the call to be a part of this All Hands In with Allstate, I was most definitely honored, because a lot of people don’t get to see all the good things that former athletes do, or even current athletes, do. You know, we get stigmatized like all the stuff that’s going on in the world, taking a knee or doing all these so-called negative things, or that they portray as negative. They don’t really shine a light on all the good things that people do.
Kartik: Yeah, I definitely feel the work and character of many of the guys playing in the NFL and in college go unnoticed at times, so we’ll definitely provide the details of the All Hands In event so anyone in the area who wants to help knows where to go. Before we wrap up, I’ll ask you a little bit about your playing days in Dallas. Are you still a Cowboys fan these days, checking out any games?
Roy: I still have a connection with some of the guys, so yes I watch the games. But I don’t watch them all. It’s not like I, you know, can dedicate my whole day to just watching football. I don’t. I’m a father to three kids, so you know, I really don’t have the opportunity to sit back and watch a whole bunch of football. But I do sometimes sit back and look at some of the games, see how some of the guys I know are doing.
Kartik: I see. So, just one last question, something fun before I let you go. Who was the biggest trash-talker you ever went up against in the NFL?
Roy: (Laughs) Well, there was a lot of them. Probably, Chad Johnson might have been one to flap his gums a little bit. Yeah, I’ll give it to Chad. Chad always used to talk mess.
Kartik: (Laughing) No surprises there. Anything else you want to let our readers know? I know you’re on track to get your degree at OU. When are you expecting to finish?
Roy: Oh, if it all goes well I’m graduating in December!