Oklahoma football: Sooners’ Heisman wins now equal to national titles

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 08: Kyler Murray of Oklahoma poses for a photo after winning the 2018 Heisman Trophy on December 8, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 08: Kyler Murray of Oklahoma poses for a photo after winning the 2018 Heisman Trophy on December 8, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

Make room in Oklahoma football’s Heisman Park. There’s another new member joining the distinguished grouping of Sooner gridiron greats.

OU’s version of the New York Yankees’ legendary Monument Park is growing at a record pace. In the 26 years between 1952 and 1978, three Sooners were awarded the coveted Heisman Trophy. All were running backs, which was hardly surprising recognizing that during that time period, in particular, Oklahoma football was known more for its continuous infusion of outstanding running backs than any other position.

But college football has evolved, and we are in a new era now of up-tempo, spread-formation, high-scoring offenses with quarterbacks that not only like slinging the ball all over the field but do so with exceptional accuracy.

In 2003, Oklahoma added its fourth Heisman Trophy winner when quarterback Jason White won college football’s highest individual honor. That came exactly 25 years after Billy Sims became the third OU player to join college football’s most select fraternity. White was the first Sooner quarterback to win the prestigious award.

in the 15 years since, three more Oklahoma quarterbacks have added to the expanding roster of former Heisman winners, which is now at 83 members with the inclusion last Saturday night of the 2018 winner, Kyler Cole Murray.

With OU quarterbacks Murray and Baker Mayfield securing the award in back-to-back seasons, Oklahoma becomes just the third school in the history of the Heisman, which was first awarded in 1935, to have different players from the same school win the award in successive years (Yale in 1936-37 and Army in 1946-47 are the two others; USC also won in back-to-back years, in 2004-05, but Reggie Bush’s award was later vacated).

The University of Oklahoma is now tied with Notre Dame and Ohio State for the most Heisman winners. That number is seven, which is equal to the number of football national championships won by the Sooners. In 2000, the most recent of the OU national titles, the ratio of Sooner Heisman winners to national championships in the same sport was 3 to 7.

Oklahoma Sooners
Oklahoma Sooners /

Oklahoma Sooners

What a difference 18 seasons makes. It took 17 seasons before Oklahoma won its first Heisman (Billy Vessels in 1952). Forty-three years after the very first Heisman was awarded (to Jay Berwanger of the University of Chicago, in 1935), OU boasted three Heisman winners. In the 15 seasons since 2003, however, OU has produced four Heisman Trophy winners. Alabama and USC are the only schools to produce as many as two Heisman winners during the time Oklahoma has produced four.

In early September 2005, a life-size bronze statue of Jason White was unveiled as, what at the time the Oklahoma City Oklahoman wrote, was “the fourth and final piece (along with statues of Billy Vessels, Steve Owens and Billy Sims) at Heisman Park, located on the east side (outside) of Owen Field.” Little at the time did they imagine there would be a two more bronze statues joining the august group of OU gridiron greats and a third to come.

In 2005, OU athletic director Joe Castiglione told the Oklahoman:

"“We realize the incredible tradition at OU, and we wanted to honor our Heisman winners in a special way, in the shadow of one of the great stadiums in college football. Oklahoma is the first to do anything like this.”"

The number of Sooner statues in Heisman Park will soon grow to seven, making a very special walkway of Oklahoma football history even more special for Sooner fans and those of all college fandoms.