A visit to Mr. Heisman
Videographer Tim Money and myself stopped by Steve Owens’ office Wednesday for an interview, which is always appropriate in Heisman week and even more fitting when a Sooner is in contention.
Owens won the 1969 Heisman and has embraced the Heisman tradition — not to mention the Sooner tradition — as much as any winner of sport’s grandest trophy.
Anyway, a visit with Owens is always ripe with great stories, and he’s wall is littered with photos of all kinds of celebrities. Including a photo of Steve and Barbara Owens on Air Force One with Richard Nixon.
Owens tells the story of appearing on the Johnny Carson Show, which then was filmed in New York. Muhammad Ali was another guest that night.
Anyway, Owens sat in a waiting room with Ali and his entourage, and Heisman winners weren’t quite the celebrities they are today. Owens said he could sense the Ali group wondering, who is this hick holding a trophy?
Owens said he sat there with his mouth shut, then one of Carson’s staffers came into the room and asked for Mr. Owens. Steve put his hand up. “The president of the United States would like to speak with you,” she said.
All of a sudden, Owens had a little more respect from the room. Nixon was offering a ride two days later to the Arkansas-Texas game, the Big Shootout of 1969, one of the greatest college football games ever played.
So that’s how the Owenses landed on Air Force One. On the ride, Barbara filled her purse with things like matchbooks, which had the official presidential emblem. “Good Christmas presents,” Steve told his wife.
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