An amazed Steve Davis returned home to Tulsa few years ago after spending the day in Norman at a book-signing that featured all five men who quarterbacked the University of Oklahoma to a national championship.
Thirty-five years after the first of his two title seasons, 1974, Davis still marveled at how football affected his life.
“These events always humble me when I think of the devotion of the Sooner fans,” Davis wrote me a day or two later. “Only today am I beginning to realize the full impact of the success of those teams I was honored to lead as its QB.”
Davis died Sunday in a South Bend, Ind., plane crash. Dead too young at age 60.
But what a life. An Oklahoma life. An Oklahoma hero.
A champion Sooner quarterback. A Baptist preacher. An ABC football analyst. Troubles, eventually, but then redemption.
Davis even came from Sallisaw, home to John Steinbeck's fictional Joads. Davis knew a little bit about grapes of wrath, but he also learned about dreams fulfilled.
“I remember as a young boy,” Davis wrote me, “working in my grandfather's grocery store on those glorious fall Saturday afternoons past when I would carry groceries out the back door and into the common parking lot of Farmer's Furniture store in Sallisaw.
“It was there, on many occasions, where my grandfather would find me watching an OU football game and dreaming of my future. I guess, on those football Saturdays, customer service took a backseat to my passion for following my heroes.”
Davis himself became a hero to thousands. He rose from obscurity on the depth chart after getting OU's final scholarship in 1971. Took over the quarterback reins in 1973 and went 32-1-1 as a starter.
While still in college, became a much-in-demand preacher, so much so that in 1975, Billy Graham gave Davis six minutes of pulpit time during a televised crusade in Lubbock, Texas.