It’s time for another update to our Countdown to Kickoff! 25 days from now, the Oklahoma Sooners will begin their 2018 season. For today’s commemoration, I’m digging deep into the archives of Sooner Football. One of the best competitors to come through Norman was H-back/D-back Tommy McDonald, who is known for never losing a game as a Sooner.
During his first two seasons at Oklahoma, McDonald’s on-the-field opportunities were scarce. It wasn’t until the Albuquerque native’s junior year in 1955 that he became the Sooners’ starting running back. He was one of the more natural athletes during the Bud Wilkinson era, so it was no surprise when he became the workhorse for the Oklahoma offense. And as his touches increased, his stats piled up, and the wins flooded in.
That season, McDonald led the team with 715 rushing yards and 15 TDs on 114 carries. He was also the designated passer on option plays. In 1955, he became the first Sooner to score a touchdown in every game of a season en route to winning a national championship.
The following season, McDonald picked up right where he left off. After rushing for 853 yards on 119 carries and adding 12 more rushing TDs to his resume, he won the 1956 Maxwell Award and was named Sporting News Player of the Year. He also finished his career as a two-time Consensus All-American and a two-time All-Big 7 (‘55 and ‘56). Additionally, he absolutely deserved to win the 1956 Heisman Trophy — an honor that instead went to Paul Hornung, who played on a 2-8 Notre Dame team.
As Oklahoma continued the sport’s longest winning streak, a second consecutive national championship came McDonald’s way before he wrapped up his college career.
In the third round of the 1957 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles selected Oklahoma’s superstar. The Eagles had him switch from running back to wide receiver, where he flourished. From ‘57 to ‘63, he was selected to five Pro Bowls, named to two All-Pro First Teams, and won the 1960 NFL Championship.
Fun fact: Tommy McDonald was also the last non-kicker in the NFL to play without a facemask.
After an illustrious career in the league with the Eagles, Cowboys, Rams, Falcons and Browns, McDonald was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1985 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998. For all the winners and champions that have ever come through Oklahoma, he stands out as one of the elite few to succeed at the height of every level.
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