Only 20 days left in our countdown to kickoff, and for lots of folks around the Oklahoma Sooners football program, the number 20 can only be properly dedicated to the legend himself, 1978 Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims.
Sims was originally born in St. Louis, Missouri, but moved to Hooks, Texas just before the start of high school. It was only until he made it to the Lone Star State that he became interested in playing football, and we’re all thankful that he did.
Billy was a force in high school, and his impressive rushing eventually received the attention of legendary OU head coach Barry Switzer.
What many younger fans don’t realize about Sims is that it took years before he was able to dominate opposing defenses. Injuries plagued him early on, so much so that he didn’t play a meaningful down until his third year on campus in 1977. When he was finally healthy, he was simply unstoppable.
In 1978, Sims’s junior season, the legendary tailback took the college football world by storm. Sims toted the rock 256 times for 1,896 and scored a whopping 22 touchdowns. His terrific season was enough to win the Heisman Trophy, making him the third Sooner ever to earn the prestigious honor.
The next season was another great one for Sims, and he almost won the Heisman for a second time, but ultimately finished as runner-up behind USC’s Charles White. Sims finished his career as OU’s all-time leading rusher with 4,118 total rushing yards and 53 touchdowns.
While his staggering statistics and rushing totals are incredible on their face, what makes his accomplishments even more remarkable is that his career rushing record stood for as long as it, with all of the talented tailbacks to come through Norman, as well as the increase in the number of games played.
In as recently as OU’s last game, it was Samaje Perine who reset the 37-year-old record against Auburn in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, finishing with a career rushing total of 4,122 yards. The honor was massive for Perine, and all of Sooner Nation was able to recognize and remember just how great of a player the man he passed truly was.
Sims would go on to the NFL Draft and was selected with the No. 1 overall pick by the Detroit Lions. He spent five seasons in the NFL and was selected to three pro bowls before suffering a devastating knee injury that ended his football career.
Now, Billy Sims remains close to the Oklahoma football program, and is one of the faces of our prolific history. While his iconic afro is a thing of the past, his love for the Sooners is as fiery as ever.
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