Long time OU fan helps update team bus

Jesse Crittenden / The Transcript

Leon Albert poses with OU memorabilia he has collected over the years. Albert and his wife, Valene, were OU football season ticket holders for nearly four decades.

Leon Albert drove by Lloyd Noble Center a few weeks ago and noticed something was wrong with one of the OU buses in the parking lot.

Albert, 90, saw that the bus, which was set to travel to California for OU's matchup with UCLA on Sept. 14, showed that OU had six Heisman Trophy winners. This meant that the bus had not been updated to include Kyler Murray's Heisman win last December, which made him the seventh OU player to win the award for the best college football player in the country.

Albert didn't like that. He knew he had to do something about it.

"It upset me," Albert said. "I check on that bus like it's mine. It was a week or two before the California game, and they changed the bus a lot but it still had six Heismans on it. I wasn't going to let that bus go to California with that six written on it. That's not right."

Richard McDonald, a friend of Albert's, told him there was a reason why the number had not been updated.

"He's such an OU fan," McDonald said. "He just likes all of OU athletics. So when Leon saw (the six on the bus), he just kept after it and kept after it. I started kidding with him and I told him they were waiting on Jalen Hurts to win it this year."

Albert approached the driver of the bus, and he told Albert that they would get the six changed to a seven before they left for California. When the bus returned from the game, Albert drove by Lloyd Noble again to make sure the correct number of Heisman Trophy winners was represented on the bus.

The six had been replaced with a seven. But it still wasn't right.

"The seven was a little off color. It was a little brighter red than the other parts of the bus," Albert said. "I said, 'That still wasn't good enough. We can't have that, and we need to change it again.'"

Early last week, Albert drove by again to check on the bus, and he saw somebody working on the tailgate of the bus. The man told Albert he was from Dallas but travels to OU to take care of the bus, as well as buses from Notre Dame, Oklahoma State and Arkansas.

Albert told him that one of the sevens on the side of the bus needed to be changed, and the man told Albert he had a seven in his car that he could put on the bus that would match the rest of it.

"I told him that I would like to see seven national championships and seven Heisman Trophy winners on the tailgate of the bus so that if I was driving behind the bus, I could see them," Albert said. "He told me he couldn't do that, but he did put a new seven on the bus so that it would match. So everything is OK, now."

The man also told Albert that he secretly put an OU symbol on a bus from Notre Dame, Arkansas and Oklahoma State, and hid the symbol in places where it would be hard to find.

"I think Notre Dame found the OU symbol and took it off. But it's still on OSU's and Arkansas'," Albert said with a laugh.

For anyone who knows Albert, the story isn't a surprise. Albert and his wife, Valene, have centered their lives around OU athletics. Prior to the couple moving to Norman in 2004, they regularly travelled from their ranch in Beaver County to both home and road Sooner football games, while also regularly making trips for OU basketball and other sports. The couple had season tickets for nearly 40 years until they finally got rid of them in 2016.

"OU sports in general has been a very big part of our lives," Valene Albert said. "It's tough to give it up and not be able to go. I was not a happy camper when we gave up the tickets. I'm still grieving over it."

Despite giving up their season tickets, the couple still make OU football a priority every game day. One of the most exciting weekends for them every year is the OU/Texas football game, and they've been to the Cotton Bowl numerous times.

Valene Albert believes Saturday's game in Dallas will be OU's chance to get revenge on last season's 48-45 loss.

"I can't forget last year," she said. "We had a family reunion, and all of the cousins that came were from Texas. They came up here to our house for the game, and I had to endure (their jokes) all afternoon. This has got to be a revenge year."

For the Alberts, Saturday's game will hopefully be another step on the way to OU's first championship in 20 years. Leon Albert is confident the newly placed seven will be changed to an eight next year.

"Hurts gonna win the Heisman," he said. "I said that before the season started. They said he couldn't throw very well but he's been 'Lincolnized', and he's going to lead us to another championship."

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