A trio of former Oklahoma Sooners are suiting up for the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. After making names for themselves in college and lasting memories for OU fans everywhere, they’ve all come together to reach the sport’s biggest stage. Here’s a rundown of each of them, from their time in Norman to the bright lights of Arrowhead Stadium.
TE Blake Bell
Well before he was on the receiving end of passes from Patrick Mahomes, Blake Bell was taking snaps at Oklahoma as a quarterback from 2011-2013. In his first couple years following a redshirt season, the Wichita, Kansas native backed up the all-time passing yards leader in program history, Landry Jones, yet saw considerable action in a special short-yardage package that affectionately became known as the ‘Belldozer’ formation. The task was simple, but brilliant. Whenever this 6’6” mountain of a human would sub in for Jones, it was a nearly automatic first down or touchdown every time he touched the ball. From 2011 to 2012, he scored an amazing 24 times with this very play.
Going into 2013, Bell found himself in a QB competition with Trevor Knight, but ultimately lost the starting job. Then Knight went down early with an injury, and the ‘Belldozer’ finally received his first chance to start. With that opportunity, he set an OU record for the most single-game passing yards for a first time starter with 413 yards.
In his time as a Sooner, Bell racked up 1,763 passing yards and 12 touchdowns on a nearly 60% completion rate. On the ground, he totaled 631 rushing yards and 24 more TDs on 181 carries. In his senior season, he made a team play and a wise business decision for himself by officially changing his position from quarterback to tight end. That transition quickly paid off in a tangible way, because it led to a fourth-round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft from the 49ers — the team he’ll now be playing against in Super Bowl LIV.
Since he’s been in the league, Bell has played for four teams: two with the 49ers, one with the Minnesota Vikings, one with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and this season with the Chiefs. For his 65-game professional career, he’s amassed 439 receiving yards and one touchdown on 40 receptions. His lone score came against the Houston Texans in the AFC Divisional Round of this season’s playoffs.
RB Damien Williams
Coming out of San Diego, Calif., Damien Williams began his collegiate football career at the JUCO level at Arizona Western. There, he was discovered and recruited by Oklahoma, where he eventually signed as part of the 2012 recruiting class.
Williams quickly establsihed himself as a big-play back who was a threat to take it the distance every time he toted the rock. In 2012, he was the only player in the FBS to record four TD-scoring runs of 65 yards or more. For Sooner fans, the one run that stands out the most is his 95-yard house call against the Texas Longhorns (with a little assistance from fellow Cali Sooner Kenny Stills).
For as much promise as Williams showed in his first season in Norman, his inability to consistently stay out of the dog house as a senior in 2013 loomed especially large. With only one start in nine appearances, he was eventually dismissed from the team for repeated violations of team rules. His Oklahoma career came to an abrupt halt as he finished with 1,909 yards from scrimmage and 19 total touchdowns.
Fortunately, he was allowed to return to OU’s facilities months later for his pro day workout. Although he went undrafted in 2014, he kept grinding for a roster spot as an UDFA. His determination paid off as he signed with the Miami Dolphins. He ultimately played for four seasons in South Florida.
In March of 2018, Williams signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, and saw his backup role elevated to starter after the team released Kareem Hunt. Ever since, the talented back has helped Mahomes, Andy Reid and the entire Kansas City offense reach some incredible heights, and he’ll be an essential piece to the Chiefs’ Super Bowl winning formula. As a sixth-year pro, Williams has rushed for a grand total of 1,496 yards and 17 touchdowns on 361 attempts while adding 1,266 receiving yards and 14 more scores on 156 catches.
LS James Winchester
For a guy who’s a starting long snapper in the Super Bowl, you’d never expect it based solely off of how his career at Oklahoma began. As a freshman walk-on pressed into emergency duty in 2008, James Winchester’s first deep snap sailed over his punter and through the end zone for a safety. Needless to say, he’s much more accurate and a lot less green this time around.
After that inauspicious start to his collegiate career, Winchester would settle in and hold down the position for the next three years. What made him particularly impactful was his propensity as an opportunist in coverage after his snaps. He often was one of the first players around the punt returner, and he came away with a nice takeaway for his efforts on multiple occasions.
Out of the three Sooners currently playing for the Chiefs, Winchester has been with the organization and in the league in general the longest. He began his NFL career with a cup of coffee in Philadelphia in 2013 before being cut prior to the season soon afterwards. From then on, he didn’t find his current landing spot in KC until 2015.
In November of 2016, James’ father, Mike Winchester, was shot and killed while working at Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City. Mike was a former punter for the Sooners from 1984-86. The family’s tragic loss rippled throughout the Sooners and Chiefs’ fan bases, culminating in an outpouring of support.
No matter how it all shakes out on Sunday, the kid from Washington, Oklahoma is competing with his entire hometown behind him.
HEARTWARMING ❤️️ Coach Jeff Kulbeth & the children at Washington, Oklahoma Public Schools wished their hometown hero James Winchester good luck! Winchester will play for the Kansas City #Chiefs in the Super Bowl Sunday! https://t.co/5NpF5JmezD #KOCO5 #SuperBowl pic.twitter.com/57qjTcXqXn— KOCO-5 Oklahoma City (@koconews) January 30, 2020
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