The Norman Transcript

March 19, 2013

Really, Davis was OU’s first quarterback

By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Steve Davis was Oklahoma’s first quarterback.

The original.

He wore No. 5, Elvis Peacock No. 4 and Tinker Owens No. 11.

I’m terrible with uniform numbers. Of the five, six or seven I’ve committed to memory, those are three of them. Johnny Bench also wore No. 5.

If I know seven, I can’t remember the other three.

Funny what a just-turned 6- year-old can remember forever, when he came to understand Oklahoma football for the first time.

The Sooners were mythic.

They’d just won a national championship but not played in a bowl game. In my 6-year-old brain I knew this but had no memory of it, because time started for me the following September, when OU opened up with a 62-7 victory over Oregon, a game I recall attending and even thinking, “What’s the big deal, they won by 55?”

I was just getting started.

I remember that one and the next one, against Pittsburgh, which was supposed to have this great running back named Tony Dorsett; and the next one, a 20-17 night triumph over Miami, listened to on a huge stereo because all stereos were huge in 1975; I vaguely recall hearing Little Joe’s 71-yard touchdown run against Missouri in the car and I remember the Orange Bowl because everybody was wondering how Michigan’s southpaw freshman quarterback Rick Leach could possibly hold up against OU.

Everything is bigger when you’re 6. For me, Steve Davis has never not been huge.

He died Sunday night in a plane crash. Read all about it on the front page of today’s paper. It’s tragic and awful and sort of unbelievable.

Giants aren’t supposed to die like that.

Jack Mildren finished up at OU in 1972, two years before Davis took the reins and a year before I remember watching him play.

For me, Mildren was an old-timer, but Davis was always the guy I watched play just three years later.

As a young man of the 80s, I would hear these debates: Is Jamelle Holieway the greatest Sooner optioneer? Maybe it’s Charles Thompson. I would hear this and think, “Hello, did you watch Steve Davis play?!”

He was surrounded by talent, yes. He was, comparatively, a dullard, setting up one running back who wore silver shoes and another whose last name was “Peacock” and another whose last name was “Ivory.”

It was lost on me.

He was Steve Davis, Sooner quarterback, bigger than life. He lost one game in two years (to Nolan Cromwell’s Kansas; I remember that, too).

He was big in a way nobody’s big any more, if only because you only get to see one year through 6-year-old eyes.

That’s how I’ll remember Steve Davis.

I can’t be the only one.

Clay Horning

Follow me @clayhorning

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