NORMAN — Former OU football standout Joe Rector died Thursday night in Oklahoma City. I wrote about his efforts to keep in touch with all of his Bud Wilkinson-era teammates in Saturday’s newspaper. You can read that here.
Funeral services for Rector will be at 11 a.m., Friday, June 28 at Demuth’s Funeral Home in Oklahoma City, located at 1145 W. Britton Road.
In lieu of flowers, the Rector family asks that gifts be sent to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ OU chapter at P.O. Box 721686, Norman, OK 73070.
Friday evening, I spoke with Wilkinson’s son, Jay, who lives in Oklahoma City and developed a good friendship with Rector over the years.
Here are some of Jay Wilkinson’s thoughts on Rector and his place in Sooner lore.
On his relationship with Joe Rector:
“Joe was a guy that I got to know after he played. It was just a privilege for me to have known him because I thought he epitomized all the greatness in the OU tradition, as far as not only being a great player on the field, but off the field. Such a nice, kind person. Always had a laughter about him, and just such a great person. Having been such an exceptional athlete and part of that great tradition, he did his best to maintain the closeness of the former players, and he did it very well.”
On the importance of Rector’s organized reunions for former Sooners:
“As we get older, those memories remain very important, but I think all of us know that they fade away as time goes on. I know Joe was very proud of that rich tradition that he and so many of those players maintained and built upon.
“He was part of the 47-game winning streak, then only lost one game (as a senior in 1958) and beat Syracuse in the Orange Bowl. Those things don’t happen by accident. You have to have very gifted, talented and unselfish people that are part of the tradition, and I think Joe understood that it was very unusual for the OU tradition to be what it is. He kept it alive.”
On Rector’s place in the OU football tradition:
“I personally have such admiration and respect for the great tradition, but when you meet the individual players who played such an important role, it helps you understand what it was like. It’s a very hard thing to do because it’s such a competitive game. To have athletes the quality of a Joe Rector and to know the role that they played in this great tradition, and then to get to know him off the field, it was just for me, such a privilege. I deeply miss him. I just had great love and admiration and respect for him. I think he was a huge part of the great OU tradition.”