Big 12: Billy Vessels

Whatever happened to the Big 12's Heisman winners?

August, 12, 2009
8/12/09
5:51
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Back in my former life at the newspaper in San Antonio, there was a wildly popular weekly column we used to run every Sunday called "Where Are They Now." A veteran staffer with loads of institutional knowledge tracked down some of the area's most memorable athletes and found out whatever happened to them after their athletic careers finished. 

The concept has always been intriguing. It's why the list I found today at lostlettermen.com was so interesting to me (hat tip to the wizofodds.com.)

And heck, it's even topical with today's stories highlighting all of our Heisman Trophy stories.

Lost Letterman lists what has happened to all 73 previous Heisman winners. It's fascinating to see what men who had such football success have done with the rest of their lives.

Here's a list of the Heisman Trophy winners from Big 12 schools along with what happened to them after their college careers.

1952: Billy Vessels (Oklahoma) -- Worked in the horse racing business and real estate in South Florida before dying of heart failure in 2001 at the age of 70.

1957: John David Crow (Texas A&M) -- Former college coach and athletic director, now retired and living in College Station, Texas (age 74).

1969: Steve Owens (Oklahoma) -- CEO of a real estate company, Steve Owens & Associates, in Norman, Okla. (age 61).

1972: Johnny Rodgers (Nebraska) -- Owns JetWear kid's bedroom store in Omaha, Neb. (age 58).

1977: Earl Campbell (Texas) -- Assistant to the vice president of student affairs at Texas (age 54).

1978: Billy Sims (Oklahoma) -- Owns a chain of Billy Sims BBQ restaurants in Oklahoma (age 53).

1983: Mike Rozier (Nebraska) -- Stay-at-home dad living in Sickerville, N.J. (age 48).

1988: Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State) -- Retired from the NFL in 1998. Currently resides in West Bloomfield, Mich. (age 41.) His son, Barry Sanders Jr., is currently a high school star in Oklahoma City.

1994: Rashaan Salaam (Colorado) -- Promotes martial arts fights in China. Currently resides in San Diego, Calif. (age 34).

1998: Ricky Williams (Texas) -- Member of the Miami Dolphins (age 32).

2001: Eric Crouch (Nebraska) -- Owns playground equipment business called "Crouch Recreation" in Nebraska (age 30).

2003: Jason White (Oklahoma) -- Owns memorabilia stores in Norman, Okla., and Oklahoma City (age 29).

2008: Sam Bradford (Oklahoma) -- Starting quarterback at Oklahoma (age 21).

It's hard for me to believe the Steve Owens, a player who I avidly followed when I was a kid growing up, is now 61 years old.

And in a way, I can see Mike Rozier as a stay-at-home dad. He was always one of my favorite players to deal with when I was covering the Houston Oilers back in the day. I'm sure he a great dad -- and a very colorful one at that.

Oklahoma's Mount Rushmore

February, 12, 2009
2/12/09
2:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Oklahoma's three legendary coaches made for an easy trio of anchors on my personal Sooner Mount Rushmore, leaving room for the greatest football player in school history as my fourth selection.

And you think it's easy to do that?

Here are my selections:

  • Bud Wilkinson -- The father of modern Oklahoma football and a pretty good football analyst during my youth. He set the school record with 145 victories, including an NCAA FBS record 47-game winning streak from 1953 through 1957.
  • Barry Switzer -- The lovable rogue who perfected the wishbone offense with scores of great Texas expatriates. It helped him finish with 157 career triumphs, three national championships and a share of every Big Eight title from 1973 to 1980.
  • Bob Stoops -- The most successful coach in Big 12 history has claimed six Big 12 titles, including an unprecedented current streak of three straight championships. Recent BCS title games haven't been kind to him, but he still claimed the 2000 national championship in only his second season as the Sooners' head coach.
  • Billy Sims -- He still makes Heisman Trophy presentations a lively affair, particularly when an Oklahoma player wins the award. He won the Heisman in 1978 and finished second the following season, leading the nation in rushing and scoring in both seasons.

I had many potential nominees for the Oklahoma football Rushmore. A case could be made for Bennie Owen, Billy Vessels, Tommy McDonald, Jerry Tubbs, Bob Kalsu, the Selmon Brothers, Brian Bosworth, Tony Casillas, Prentice Gautt, Granville Liggins, Keith Jackson, Roy Williams, Tommie Harris, Rocky Calmus, Josh Heupel, Adrian Peterson and Jason White.

I could go on and on.

And if he has another Heisman-winning season, it might be especially hard to argue with that Sam Bradford fellow, too.

Anybody I've forgotten, or grossly underrated or overrated?  

Bradford credits teammates in winning Heisman

December, 13, 2008
12/13/08
9:39
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Sam Bradford's Heisman Trophy coronation almost turned into a pep rally for the school -- and his teammates.

Bradford paid homage to the Big 12 champion Sooners, a group that has scored more points than any team in modern-day college football, as he accepted the Heisman Trophy Saturday night.

"They are unreal," Bradford said. "I was surrounded by such a strong supporting cast. I feel like I'm up here representing them. This is an individual award, but I feel like I'm receiving it (the Heisman Trophy) for them. Without them, I would be nowhere. "

Good idea, in my opinion. The Sooners have been that dominant this season -- but particularly when the Sooners made history by scoring at least 60 points in their final five games of the season.

Former Oklahoma running back Billy Sims is already sparking the ire of the Texas message boards with his declaration that "Sooner or later we'll get you" as Bradford accepted the award. But it was all in good fun and just made the annual Texas-Oklahoma game next October in Dallas that much more interesting -- as if it really needed any more fuel after the BCS controversy that pushed the Sooners into the Big 12 championship ahead of the Longhorns.

It was the third- closest vote in history as Bradford garnered 1,725 votes, compared to 1,604 for second-place finisher Colt McCoy of Texas and 1,575 for defending Heisman winner Tim Tebow of Florida.

Tebow actually received more first-place votes than any other competitor. But Bradford received enough second- and third-place votes that boosted him past the rest of the field. He becomes the fifth Oklahoma player to win the award. The school's other winners were Billy Vessels, Steve Owens, Sims and Jason White.

The Big 12 was represented with four of the top five finalists. Teammates Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech ranked fourth and fifth, respectively.

Bradford's victory marked the second-straight season the winner accepted the trophy with a cast on his non-throwing arm. But he vows to be ready for the Sooners' Jan. 8 date against Florida in the FedEx BCS National Championship Game in Miami.

Watching Bradford and the Oklahoma offense was enough to make a believer of Florida coach Urban Meyer.

"It's as good an offense as I've ever seen on video," Meyer said.

And it was sparked the quarterback who led the nation in touchdown passes and richly deserved the award.

Tim's mailbag predicts how good Huskers, Aggies will be

August, 18, 2008
8/18/08
5:43
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

From Bellevue: Does 6-6 or a lofty 7-5 sound realistic for the re-tooled Cornhuskers?

Tim Griffin: Yes it does and maybe a step better, like 8-4 if Bo Pelini grabs some beginner's luck along the way and stays away from some defensive injuries that might cripple his program.

Pelini's arrival has been like a shot of adrenalin through the Nebraska program. I think it only continues once the season begins. I also expect Nebraska to absolutely mash the ball lot more than most people would think. I was talking to one of the most-respected Nebraska reporters over the weekend. He told me it wouldn't surprise him if the Cornhuskers ranked among the top 10 nationally in rushing. With backs like Lucky, Castille, Helu and Mendoza, it's a possibility.

To go 8-4, the Cornhuskers absolutely have to win their first three nonconference games. I'm thinking they could be ripe for an upset in one of those games and Pelini has to guard against that. But I really like their home schedule from there with games against Virginia Tech, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado. They will likely be underdogs for the first three. It wouldn't surprise me if they can claim at least one of those games and maybe two.

And if the Cornhuskers can finish strongly, they should finish at least 7-5 and maybe better. And a late winning streak might catapult them into a good bowl. Watch what the Gator Bowl does in terms of taking Notre Dame. If the Irish end up in Jacksonville for New Year's Day, don't be shocked to find the Cornhuskers finish up somewhere in Texas -- like San Antonio or El Paso -- for their bowl trip this season.

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