NORMAN â€” 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 â€œThe Best That Never Was,â€ 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, â€œThe Best That Never Wasâ€ 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.
â€œIt's overwhelming,â€ 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.
â€œMy goal is to sign an autograph for every fan I never got to meet when I was in school,â€ 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.
â€œHe's so friendly, just like a big teddy bear,â€ said former OU assistant coach Bobby Proctor, who stopped by the store to chat with Dupree.
Proctor encouraged Dupree to move back to Oklahoma. â€œLots of people here would love to help you,â€ Proctor told him.
Dupree doesn't seem to have a bitter bone in his body. Look at it this way. Barry Switzer, maybe the greatest players' coach football ever has seen, admits he mishandled no player like he mishandled the sensitive Dupree. Yet Dupree still embraces Switzer.
â€œI still love Coach Switzer,â€ Dupree said.
That's why he came to OU in the first place. â€œI liked his swagger,â€ Dupree said. â€œThe way he did interviews. He had good teams, good players.â€
The 2010 Sooners are headed to the Fiesta Bowl. In the 1982 season Fiesta Bowl, Dupree rushed for 239 yards against Arizona State, but that wasn't enough for Switzer, who pointed out that if Dupree had been in shape, he could have run for 400 yards.
Nonsense, Dupree says today. â€œI should have had 500 yards.â€
What would Dupree tell an 18-year-old hotshot running back who is confused and doesn't know what to do?
Said the man who once fit that exact description: â€œTell him to come to Oklahoma.â€
Dupree lives with regrets. He said on the film and he says on East Alameda, he should have stayed at OU.
â€œFirst of all, I could have gotten my degree,â€ Dupree said. â€œSecond of all, I could have won the Heisman Trophy. Third of all, I could have won two national championships.
â€œThat's the reason I came to Oklahoma, to do all those things.â€
Those things didn't happen. But now perhaps Dupree can come back to Oklahoma and find something just as good.
Peace. Roots. Cheers. Lots of cheers. He's heard them before in Oklahoma. He's hearing them again.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.