Remembering Ricky Bryan
Ricky Bryan died Saturday night, a star-crossed OU football star.
Bryan was plagued by timing. He was a great Sooner who played in a not-so-great period: 1981-83. Other Sooners have suffered the same fate. Carl McAdams, the great linebacker from the early 1960s. Demond Parker, the 1990s halfback phenom. Indian Jack Jacobs, the quarterback extraordinare from the early 1940s.
In fact, of OU’s 35 two-time all-Americans, only three never won a conference title: McAdams, Ralph Neely (1963-64) and Bryan.
Bryan came to OU as a tight end out of Coweta and left as a two-time consensus all-American defensive tackle who ranks just below, but in the same discussion, with Tony Casillas and Lee Roy Selmon. Bryan’s statistics actual outshine those two epic players’, and his pro career was equal to Casillas’, just behind the Hall of Fame standard of Selmon.
In Barry Switzer’s first 13 years as the Sooner coach, he had Selmon, Bryan or Casillas manning the defensive interior in eight seasons. And when Switzer didn’t have those epic players, he had the likes of Reggie Kinlaw or John Goodman or Richard Turner or Keith Gary. I would argue that defensive lineman was OU’s greatest position of the Switzer era, better even than halfback.
Ex-OU recruiting chief Scott Hill told me a story once about Proposition 48, the landmark NCAA legislation that established entrance requirements for scholarship players. Prop 48 was enacted in 1983. Hill said that if the rule had been in effect when Bryan came out of Coweta, he would have been ineligible. Yet Bryan became a two-time all-Big Eight academic selection.
Bryan’s brothers, Steve and Mitch, also played at OU. Steve was a starting DT on the 1985 national title team. The list is short of Sooner brothers more decorated: the Selmons, the Burrises, the Owenses.
When left the NFL after 10 years, he returned to Coweta and raised a family on his 1,000-acre ranch and farm. He was a big ol’ country boy who could play football and play it well.
How well? Rick Bryan can be mentioned in the same breath as Lee Roy Selmon and Tony Casillas, which in Sooner lore is as high of praise as can be offered.
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