It’s starting to get serious, folks. There are only 35 days — or five weeks — left until the Oklahoma Sooners officially kick off the 2018 season. For today’s edition of our Countdown to Kickoff, I’m going to take a look back on the first Heisman Trophy winner in Oklahoma history, and I’ll also aim the spotlight on a Sooner who was in the program at the turn of the century.
Before Billy Vessels, Oklahoma didn’t know what it was like to be able to boast a Heisman Trophy winner. That’s a far cry from where the program is today, but how exactly did Vessels become the first Heisman recipient in school history?
For starters, the offense revolved around Vessels and his ability to turn a probable negative play into a positive gain. He also possessed great top end speed when he turned on the jets. In 1952, Vessels racked up 1,072 rushing yards and 18 total TDs on just 167 carries.
The locals of Vessels’ hometown of Cleveland, Oklahoma knew him better as ‘Curly.’ As the story goes, the hometown hero made his friends and family as proud as ever when he brought back the first Heisman Trophy in Sooner history.
Now Vessels is likely the most well-known Sooner to wear the No. 35 by virtue of winning the Heisman, but another player who did the number proud was fullback/running back Seth Littrell.
Littrell lettered at Oklahoma from 1997 to 2000. While it was tough to find carries when the Muskogee native shared a backfield with studs like De’Mond Parker and Quentin Griffin over the course of his career, Littrell managed to amass 715 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 170 carries. He was also a threat as a receiver once the Air Raid arrived in Norman, catching 23 passes for 179 yards and a pair of scores.
One of his TDs came in Oklahoma’s 44-7 drubbing of Oklahoma State in 1999, Stoops’ first season in Norman:
After winning the 2000 BCS National Championship as a team captain, Seth Littrell hung up his cleats to pursue a coaching career. Stints as an offensive assistant at Kansas, Texas Tech, Arizona, Indiana and North Carolina led him to his first head coaching job at North Texas in 2016. After only qualifying for the postseason once in the 11 years prior to his arrival, Littrell has coached the Mean Green to back-to-back bowl game appearances.
Coach Littrell is definitely one of the rising stars among the college football coaching ranks, and with him roaming the sidelines in Denton, the UNT program is humming with new optimism.
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