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Oklahoma football: Steve Davis funeral

by Berry Tramel Published: March 25, 2013

I just got back a little while ago from Steve Davis’ funeral at the First Baptist Church in Tulsa. I wrote a column for the Tuesday Oklahoman, which you can read here. But I had heard and saw some things which didn’t make the column, I thought I would share.

Dewey Selmon hugs a mourner during the funeral services for former University of Oklahoma football player Steve Davis at the First Baptist Church on Monday, March 25, 2013, in Tulsa, Okla. Davis died in a plane crash last week in Indiana. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman

Dewey Selmon hugs a mourner during the funeral services for former University of Oklahoma football player Steve Davis at the First Baptist Church on Monday, March 25, 2013, in Tulsa, Okla. Davis died in a plane crash last week in Indiana. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman

* John Roush told some interesting stories. In January 1975, he was in Honolulu, preparing for the Hula Bowl all-star game, along with some fellow senior teammates. But Davis, who had another year of eligibility, was there, too. Together, they watched the Orange Bowl, in which Notre Dame beat Alabama 13-11, assuring the Sooners of the AP national championship. Roush still doesn’t know how or why Davis was in Hawaii for an all-star game in which he wasn’t playing. “Those memories, you don’t forget,” Roush said.

Roush said he had a habit back then of using “fried” as a verb of emotion. “That really fried me,” or “that charcoal-fried me.” In 1976, when Davis officiated at the wedding of John and Rhonda Roush, he pronounced them man and wife, then instead of telling his friend to kiss the bride, Davis said, “OK, Roush. Now fry her.”

Davis and Roush were freshman in 1971, the last year freshmen were ineligible. In 1972, they were on the scout team together “so we could get better,” he said with sarcasm. They went from freshmen to freshmeat. “Thank you, Lee Roy (Selmon),” Roush said he said, “as my head rang walking back to the huddle.”

* Rossi Robinson, the uncle of former OSU quarterback Zac Robinson, befriended Davis while they were OU students in 1972. Robinson delivered one of the eulogies Monday.

He told the story of how they were headed to Sallisaw in 1975 to ride in a parade in Davis’ honor. They even rode the Sooner Schooner in the parade. But the day before, they were in Norman’s American Exchange Bank, talking about their trip, and a bank executive discovered they were on their way to Sallisaw. He offered to pay them $90 to repossess a car. And so the next day, they hot-wired the vehicle and drove it to Davis’ parents’ house. Davis took off the next day for flight somewhere, and Robinson was supposed to drive the car back to Norman. It started smoking before he got out of Sallisaw and had to call Davis’ father for help.

Chuck Bowman, the iconic FCA director in Oklahoma, took the stage after Robinson and told the crowd if they had never seen Davis, they had now. “You’ve probably seen the closest thing to Steve Davis in Rossi,” Bowman said. “Never seen a smile, never seen a head of hair like that.”

* Bowman said the word that he identified with Davis was “servant. Steve Davis was a servant.” Bowman was forever asking Davis to speak, all over the state. “He never turned me down,” Bowman said.

* First Baptist Church of Tulsa pastor Deron Spoo related a great story from the Davis family.

As a sixth grader, Davis and friends were playing football outside their church in Sallisaw. Some older, rougher boys joined the game and started cussing. Davis told one of the boys he shouldn’t be taking the Lord’s name in vain. A fight ensued, and Davis was on the ground, about to be slugged by the ruffian. And Davis said, “I still don’t think you should use the Lord’s name in vain.”

Bo Davis speaks at a funeral for his father Steve Davis at First Baptist Church in Tulsa, Okla., Monday,March 25, 2013. Former Oklahoma quarterback Steve Davis and Tulsa businessman Wes Caves died in the March 17 plane crash. Two others on the plane were injured along with one person on the ground. (AP Photo/Tulsa World, Mike Simons)

Bo Davis speaks at a funeral for his father Steve Davis at First Baptist Church in Tulsa, Okla., Monday,March 25, 2013. Former Oklahoma quarterback Steve Davis and Tulsa businessman Wes Caves died in the March 17 plane crash. Two others on the plane were injured along with one person on the ground. (AP Photo/Tulsa World, Mike Simons)

* Davis’ son, Bo Davis, a former Jenks High School athlete who played baseball at the University of Missouri, said it had been an interesting week, realizing how much his dad meant to people all over the state.

“Obviously, he meant so much to so many people,” Bo Davis said. “ The scope of everything was impressive to me. That’s just not how I know him. He was a geek. We had a lot of laughs. He wore too much Tommy Bahamas.”

* Billy Sims was a freshman halfback at OU during Davis’ senior year in 1975. “I never had a preacher for a quarterback,” Sims said with a degree of innocence. “Then J.C. (Watts) came around, and I was like, ‘Oh, I got another one?’”

* Barry Switzer was asked if Davis was an extension of Switzer on the field. “No,” Switzer said, dismissing the entire concept. “He was his own man.”

Switzer said one of his greatest fears in life is outliving his children and hopes he never has to go through what Davis’ parents are going through now. It’s bad enough, Switzer, when he loses former players. Davis was the third of his players to die in the last couple of weeks, joining offensive linemen Jaime Melendez and Ken Jones.

And Switzer also disputed all the stories that Davis would fly out to speaking engagements on Friday nights before games. “I don’t remember Friday nights,” Switzer said. “That didn’t happen. Maybe on Saturday nights. But not Friday.”

* Here are the former Sooners I saw at the funeral:

From the 1950s: Jay O’Neal, Jakie Sandifer, Clendon Thomas, Bill Krisher.

From the 1960s: Steve Owens, Steve Zabel.

From the 1970s: Tony Peters, Mike Vaughan, Dewey Selmon, Tinker Owens, Dean Blevins, John Randolph, Uwe von Schamann, Gary Baccus, Duane Baccus, Billy Sims, Grant Burget, Scott Hill, Jimbo Elrod, Randy Hughes, Jim Littrell, Tony Sutton.

From the 1980s: Brian Bosworth.

Coaches: Barry Switzer, Merv Johnson, Bobby Proctor, Donnie Duncan.

From OSU: Harry Birdwell.

From Tulsa U.: Bill Blankenship.

From OU baseball: Bill Severns.

Also, Jimmy Harris’ daughter, Cathy Leigh Lamb, attended.

 

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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