OU football: Latest historical video a winner
Jay Wilkinson walked on stage at the Warren Theater in Moore on Monday night, looking and sounding very much like his father. “Hard for me to believe that it’s been 65 years since my father became head coach” at OU, Wilkinson said. Bud Wilkinson in 1947 began “such a consistent record of success, unparalleled. What it means is, we’re all connected to the past.”
Sixty-five years, but Bud Wilkinson’s legacy remains. And now it will be preserved more than ever. Jay Wilkinson introduced the latest in a series of videos about Sooner football history: “The History of Oklahoma Football Part II: Legacy of Winning.” This video, regaling the Wilkinson years of 1947 through 1963, was produced by Brandon Meier, OU’s executive director of video production, and his staff. And it’s an absolute treasure for anyone who cares about Sooner football.
The first video, released last year, dealt with the program from its 19th-century roots through 1946. Naturally, it was heavy on interviews and photographs. An excellent possession for Sooner fans. But it contained little game action, as to be expected from 1920s and 1930s football.
The Wilkinson era is different. OU had tons of game film from the Wilkinson years, courtesy of the late Ned Hockman, a pioneer in sports video. Meier and his staff converted over 2,000 films to digital imagery and produced the 155-minute video.
The color film from the 1949 Sugar Bowl, or from all the OU-Texas games, or from Orange Bowls from the 1950s, will give you a sentimental feeling of what America and Oklahoma were like three generations ago. And to see the exploits of great players we’ve only read about — Jack Mitchell and Eddie Crowder and Billy Vessels and Jimmy Harris — is a treat.
“Had it not been for Ned Hockman, my father’s dear friend, who had the foresight and expertise to develop the film, we wouldn’t be able to see the great imagery,” Jay Wilkinson said. “I do know my father and Ned Hockman would be so very proud.”
Anyone associated with OU should be proud. The video contains fantastic color game action from as early as 1947. The interviews are excellent as well. Jay Wilkinson mentioned many of the auxiliary personnel who helped define the Wilkinson era — including trainer Ken Rawlinson, publicist Harold Keith, president George Lynn Cross — “but more than anything, it was his great football players.”
Among the players interviewed: Clendon Thomas, Darrell Royal, Charlie Sarratt, Calvin Woodworth, Bob Burris, Richard Ellis, Claude Arnold, J.D. Roberts, Jay O’Neal, Billy Krisher, Byron Searcy and Jakie Sandefer. Sarratt tells great stories about Royal, and Royal tells the timeless story of his sojourn to California as a boy and hitchhiking back to Hollis.
Example: Thomas, the all-American halfback on the 1955-57 teams, tells the story of how Wilkinson asked if Thomas was allowed to make a mistake. Thomas’ answer: “Sure. We’re human. We’re going to make mistakes.” Wilkinson then asked if everyone was allowed to make mistakes. And if all 11 players made mistakes, how many mistakes would that become in a game. “If we make three mistakes against Texas,” Wilkinson told Thomas, “we’re going to lose.”
Among the other interviews: Jay Wilkinson, Bob Barry Sr., Pete Elliott (a Wilkinson assistant in the ’50s), Merv Johnson (who at Missouri played against OU’s great 1956 team) and Ross Porter, a student publicist in the late 1950s who went on to a long broadcasting career with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Example: Jay Wilkinson talking about his father’s most important game, 1947 Missouri, when a 30-year-old Bud Wilkinson led the Sooners to victory over his mentor, Missouri coach Don Faurot, which showed that OU football was in good hands, despite the youthful age of its new coach.
The video includes Wilkinson family photographs and Wilkinson letters and newsreel film of Wilkinson at practice.
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