Switzer tales: Washington’s silver shoes, Lott’s bandana
Barry Switzer’s teams in the 1970s were cutting edge. Racially progressive. Expressive personalities. They impacted college football fans far beyond the Oklahoma borders.
Bob Stoops has talked about, as a teenager in Youngstown, Ohio, painting his shoes silver to mimic Joe Washington. Oklahoman sports editor Mike Sherman grew up in Maryland and says high school football players out there would wear bandanas, in tribute to Thomas Lott.
But there was a downside to such style: criticism from multiple corners, some of it from coaches, some of it from racist fans.
OU first played a black quarterback, Kerry Jackson, in 1972. An NCAA academic scandal, unbeknownst to Jackson, derailed his ascension. But Switzer started a black quarterback in 1976, Lott, igniting a long line of black Sooner QBs: J.C. Watts, Darrell Shepard, Danny Bradley, Jamelle Holieway, etc.
Switzer doesn’t claim to know all that his early black quarterbacks went through. He said Watts would show him the letters, but Lott did not. “Thomas handled it differently,” Switzer said.
The only time Lott came to Switzer about the issue was over the bandana, which Lott wore to protect his Afro from indentions. Lott asked if he should lose the bandana.
“Thomas, you’ve been wearing it ever since high school,” Switzer told him. “I know why you’re wearing it. So you wouldn’t have to stand around with that damn pick for 20 minutes. That’s why you’re playing quarterback. You’re smarter than the rest of them.”
Lott’s 1975 recruiting classmate, linebacker Daryl Hunt, said Lott was a folk hero even among the players. “When Thomas broke out his bandana, I broke out mine,” Hunt said. “Mine was like Aunt Jemima. I tied my up in the front.”
And Switzer still bristles at the comments of Colorado coach Bill Mallory, who took the Buffalo job in 1974. “They’re undisciplined,” Switzer remembers Mallory saying. “They let some guy wear different color shoes.”
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