Ex-Oklahoma quarterback Steve Davis dead at 60
By JEFF LATZKE AP College Football Writer March 18, 2013 11:18AM
In this Nov. 15, 1975 file photo, University of Oklahoma quarterback Steven Davis (5) sweeps for a 15-yard gain against Missouri in Columbia, Mo. A University of Oklahoma official says the starting quarterback for Oklahoma's national championship teams in 1974 and 1975 is one of two men killed when a small plane slammed into a house in northern Indiana. St. Joseph County Coroner Randy Magdalinski identified the victims of Sunday's march 17, 2013 crash as 60-year-old Steven Davis and 58-year-old Wesley Caves, both of Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Jim Arego, File)
NORMAN, Okla. — Steve Davis started every game of Barry Switzer’s first three seasons as head coach at Oklahoma, piling up a 32-1-1 record with two national championships in a career that stood as the best in school history for more than three decades.
Davis’ school records for consecutive starts (34) and career victories (32) were surpassed only last season by Landry Jones, who started every game the past three seasons plus most of 2009.
In the process, Davis reached out to Jones, who had been criticized after an early season loss to Kansas State by writing him a letter; Davis had been booed during the only loss of his career, a 23-3 setback to Kansas in 1975. Jones would go on to break Davis’ career record for wins by beating Texas, also joining Davis, Jimmy Harris and Jamelle Holieway as the only Sooners’ quarterbacks to go 3-0 in Red River Rivalry starts.
“He just really wanted to encourage me,” Jones recalled. “Just keep going, keep leading those guys and keep fighting, regardless of what happens in the next game or the last game. Your focus is on this game and always to lead those guys.”
The 60-year-old Davis was one of two people killed Sunday when a small aircraft smashed into a house in South Bend, Ind. St. Joseph County Coroner Randy Magdalinski identified the victims Monday.
Davis was the Sooners’ starter from 1973 to 1975. Oklahoma tied Southern Cal in the second game of the 1973 season, then ran off 28 straight victories with Davis under center, Joe Washington in the backfield and the Selmon brothers anchoring the defense. The Sooners went 11-0 in 1974, then won the national title again the following year after going 11-1.
A product of a different era, Davis hardly had to throw a pass to be the star quarterback in Oklahoma’s dominant wishbone offense. He completed just 40 percent of his passes during his career for 2,034 yards, but only attempted about six passes per game during Oklahoma’s back-to-back championship seasons.
With silver-shoed All-American Washington carrying the ball, the Sooners rushed 813 times in 1974 — averaging an NCAA record 73.9 attempts per game — and amassing 438.8 yards on the ground.
Davis noted that his parents were from Sallisaw, but he was born at Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, La., where his father was serving in the Air Force. He said he dreamed of playing for Oklahoma but was lightly recruited and, upon his father’s recommendation, considered attending West Point before joining the Sooners.
“When I got out of high school, I only knew two songs, ‘Boomer Sooner’ and ‘Amazing Grace,’” Davis said in the 2012 book “I Love Oklahoma/I Hate Texas,” explaining how he became an ordained Baptist minister as a teenager.
Davis grew up in Sallisaw in far eastern Oklahoma and received the very last available scholarship to play at Oklahoma, only after another player had decided to play at Colorado instead, according to the book.
“They had a lot of scholarships and they recruited eight quarterbacks to try to find somebody that could imitate Jack Mildren, and I was one of those eight,” Davis recalled in the 2008 book “The Die-Hard Fan’s Guide to Sooner Football.” “I was the bottom of the eight but I was one of those eight, and through early fall drills I started out as number eight quarterback.”
Davis described how he considered leaving Oklahoma before the 1973 season, but instead dedicated himself to competing and ended up landing the starter’s job after Kerry Jackson was suspended and the Sooners were put on probation.
It would end up being among the greatest tenures for a starting quarterback in Oklahoma’s storied history, along with Harris’ performance during the NCAA record run of 47 consecutive victories.
“That’s what you live for,” Davis said in the “Fan’s Guide” interview. “I never felt nervous or anxious. I mean, I just couldn’t wait to get out there and go play, go match up, go see who’s better. I never got tight. I was an excitable player, but I think I played within myself, and just knowing I was going to go compete in front of 70,000 or 80,000 people and go find out who’s best — it was great.
“If you’re well prepared and you really have done your homework, there’s no reason to feel pressure.”