Joe Rector loved catching up with his former Oklahoma football teammates.
Once every 30 days, Chuck Bowman and the rest of Rector’s old pals who remain in the Oklahoma City area could expect a phone call, inviting them to what became a monthly tradition.
“About once every month, he would personally call you,” said Bowman, one of Rector’s former teammates and closest friends. “He would get you on the phone and say, ‘Chuck, we’re gonna have lunch next Thursday. You’ve gotta be there.’”
Rector, a two-year starting end for Bud Wilkinson and key part of the Sooners’ record 47-game winning streak, died Thursday night in Oklahoma City. He was 76.
Funeral services are pending, Bowman said.
Before playing at OU, Rector starred at Muskogee High School. The Roughers went unbeaten his senior year in 1954, but couldn’t claim a state championship. That season, the Oklahoma High School Athletic Association canceled the football playoffs because of “too much football.”
Rector played on some of college football’s most accomplished squads at Oklahoma before a long career in real estate.
Still, his final high-school season bothered Rector over the years as he imagined what that 1954 Muskogee team might have accomplished. “As I got older and talked to those guys who did go to the playoffs, it kind of made me mad,” Rector said in an April 2012 interview. “It would have been interesting to see how far we would have gone my senior year. We thought we had a pretty good team.”
No such ambiguity exists, though, regarding Rector’s collegiate football teams, which won two national titles and still hold the sport’s greatest winning streak.
Memories from those years compelled Rector to organize his monthly reunions.
“During those years, we lived in the same dormitory together, we ate together, we laughed together, cried together,” Bowman said. “We’d sweat together and crawl back to the dorm together.
“I would kind of relate it to a military experience, guys who go to war and they just depend upon each other, and they grow to love each other.”
Clendon Thomas, an All-America Oklahoma halfback on those teams, remembered Rector as “an outgoing, gregarious kind of guy.
“He headed up that thing,” Thomas said. “I just enjoyed his friendship. It’s hard to talk about him.
“We’ve all gotten older and unfortunately we’ve lost him, but he was a good guy to know and a good guy to be around.”