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ESPN documentary helps restore Marcus Dupree's connection to Oklahoma

by Berry Tramel Modified: December 23, 2010 at 7:53 pm •  Published: December 23, 2010

NORMAN — Lisa DeBolt hurried through the door of the Cricket Wireless store on East Alameda Street this week, seven minutes late but thrilled to find her prey.

Marcus Dupree had not left the building.

Dupree, late for an appointment himself after a two-hour autograph session, gladly signed two footballs for DeBolt. She was the last of a string of Sooner fans who had come to see a mythical man.

ESPN's November premiere of “The Best That Never Was,” a documentary about Dupree's abbreviated career that was part of the network's vaunted 30 for 30 series, did more than revive the legend of Marcus Dupree.

It restored his connection to Oklahoma.

Sooner fans have forgiven Dupree for high-tailing it back to Mississippi in 1983. Forgiven him for all those touchdowns not scored, all those yards not gained.

The film warmed Sooner hearts, not for what could have been, but for what was.

In Oklahoma, “The Best That Never Was” doesn't fit. Because Dupree was here. He did score all those majestic cross-country touchdowns. The film stoked memories not of what the Sooners lost when Dupree quit the team in mid-1983, but what the Sooners had in that magical 1982 season.

Fans tell Dupree they loved the film. Loved the high school highlights of him running roughshod over Mississippi football fields. Tell him he's their new all-time favorite tailback.

“It's overwhelming,” Dupree said.

Dupree has temporarily relocated to Oklahoma for a series of public appearances through the holidays and says he's thinking about moving back permanently.

“My goal is to sign an autograph for every fan I never got to meet when I was in school,” Dupree said.

That quote looks bombastic in print. Don't take it that way. He said it humbly. Dupree seems now the same way he was in the film.

The same way he was an 18-year-old tailback in October 1982, when he took Oklahoma and college football by storm.

Quiet. Down to Earth. Amazed at all the fuss. Amazed that Nick DeBolt would hear on the radio about Dupree's Cricket appearance, call his mom and beg her to hurry to get an autograph.

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by Berry Tramel
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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