We’re back at it once again with another edition of our Countdown to Kickoff! As of today, there are four days left until the Oklahoma Sooners return to Owen Field. For this latest installment, I’m going to look at several players who did magical things with the ball in their hands. I’m talking about quarterback Jamelle Holieway, and receivers Malcolm Kelly and Kenny Stills. And stay tuned, because I’m also going to honorably highlight a few others who wore the No. 4.
I’ll kick things off with the QB of the group. People who understand football know that just reaching national title contention status is challenging enough, and actually winning a championship is the most difficult thing to do in college football. Then to do it all as a true freshman QB? Well, Jamelle Holieway is the only person who knows what that’s like.
In 1985, a kid from Carson, California came all the way to Norman to spend his collegiate career as a Sooner. He wasn’t expected to play much until starting QB Troy Aikman was sidelined for the season with broken ankle suffered against Miami. Switzer then entrusted the true freshman with the keys to his offense, and from that moment on, Holieway proved to be a wishbone savant.
Holieway had a knack for running the ‘bone. He used his unique creativity and natural instincts to guide the Sooners to seven straight wins to close the regular season, and in doing so, OU was invited to play in the Orange Bowl against the top-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions. Oklahoma dominated Penn State in the second half en route to the national title, and Holieway made college football history. Yes, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa won a championship with his late bomb, but Holieway is still the only FBS QB to do it as the team’s starter. Tua may have won that game with his late heroics, but Holieway led the 1985 team to that point.
Jamelle Holieway played three more seasons at Oklahoma, and for his career he recorded 2,713 yards on the ground and 32 touchdowns, and threw for 2,339 yards and 22 more scores. Those numbers would have been much higher if not for some unfortunate luck with injuries, but his wizardry on the field makes him a legend.
Jumping ahead to 2005, another true freshman made a splash for the Crimson & Cream — albeit for a relatively pedestrian team. Wide receiver Malcolm Kelly out of Longview, Texas played with a fire as big as his personality. His teammates were quickly drawn to him for his charisma, as evidenced by the most popular post-game freestyle in college football history.
I SAID TWITTER DO YOU KNOW THIS SONG— Jesse James (@jess2O_) August 25, 2018
Boomer Sooner ☝ pic.twitter.com/N5pM7kiPmu
That viral locker room performance happened just moments after Oklahoma won the 2006 Big 12 Championship over Nebraska, a game in which Kelly was named the MVP. As a whole, the night was emblematic of what the talented receiver brought to the team.
For his three-year career, Kelly accumulated 2,285 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns on 144 receptions. He was also named a Freshman All-American (‘05) and a two-time All-Big 12 first-teamer (‘06, ‘07).
In the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins selected Malcolm Kelly with the 51st overall pick. Unfortunately, his professional career never really materialized.
Just a couple years after Kelly wrapped up his Sooner career, another receiver assumed the No. 4 mantle. Kenny Stills, a Carlsbad, California product, was a highly-rated recruit coming out of high school in 2010. He went on to start in every game he played.
At this time in the program, the Sooners were airing it out as much as anybody in the nation. Stills wasn’t just a beneficiary of the high volume of passes per game — he was also a key reason why it was so effective. He routinely made himself open with his crisp routes, and he was lethal in the red zone.
By the end of a strong three-season career, Stills recorded a total of 204 receptions for 2,594 receiving yards and 24 TDs. Like Kelly, Stills was named a Freshman All-American (‘10), and he was also a two-time All-Big 12 Second Team (‘11, ‘12) selection.
In the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints selected Kenny Stills with the 144th overall pick. After two solid seasons in NOLA, Stills was traded to Miami in 2015, where he continues to thrive today.
Now let’s take a look at some other players who rocked the 4.
RB Elvis Peacock
One of the best names in Oklahoma history was also one of the fastest players of his era. Elvis Peacock raced onto the scene in 1974, helping Oklahoma win back-to-back national titles. In four seasons, the Miami product recorded 2,205 yards and 23 touchdowns from scrimmage.
WR Buster Rhymes
A short time after Peacock played, another Miami native with a sweet moniker came to Oklahoma. No, not Busta Rhymes, but this guy did do some special things in his day. George ‘Buster’ Rhymes was an imposing player at the receiver position (after a switch from RB), and he combined that size with speed to burn. From 1980 to 1984, he totaled 2,235 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns.
Wide receiver Travis Wilson
Last but not least, Travis Wilson, a receiver from Carrolton, Texas, suited up for the Sooners from 2002-05 and played alongside some prominent pass-catchers like Mark Clayton, Mark Bradley, Brandon Jones and the aforementioned Kelly. Despite the wealth of talent around him, he made a name for himself, recording 105 catches for 1,315 yards and 17 scores in his career. He went on to be drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the third round of the 2006 NFL Draft.
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