Led by Lee Roy Selmon, Oklahoma's defenses were so dominant in the mid-1970s, if the Sooners won the coin toss, they elected to kick off.
Considered the greatest player in OU history, Selmon suffered a stroke Friday afternoon in Tampa. He died Sunday at age 56.
Teammates used the word dominant to describe the College and Pro Football Hall of Famer but insist that's only half the story.
“Lining up next to him and his brothers, it was amazing just to watch them play,” said defensive end Jimbo Elrod. “But as amazing as Lee Roy was as a player, he was an even more amazing person.”
The cornerstone to OU teams that won back-to-back national championships in 1974 and 1975, Selmon was one of the greatest defensive linemen ever.
“He was as dominant as any player I've ever seen,” said safety Randy Hughes, who played six years for the Dallas Cowboys. “No one could cut (block) him. Nobody could knock him down. He had great feet, great balance. And what a great person. Forget football. What a great family.”
Playing alongside brothers Lucious and Dewey, a trio that turned their mother and their hometown (Eufaula) into Oklahoma legends, Lee Roy Selmon helped the Sooners go on one of the greatest runs in college football history.
During Lee Roy's and Dewey's four seasons, the Sooners compiled a 43-2-1 record, won two national titles and went 38 consecutive games without a loss.
“Lee Roy carried the torch for all of us throughout his career,” said All-American offensive tackle Mike Vaughan. “You're so proud just to be associated with him and all his great accomplishments.”
Steve Davis, the quarterback on those back-to-back national title teams, had an early glimpse of Selmon and his brothers.
Davis played at Sallisaw, ranked No. 1 the year the Black Diamonds played Eufaula. It rained hard that day.
“I remember Lee Roy on defense because I never made a play. I never got very far down the field away from him,” Davis said. “On offense, he and Dewey rotated at tailback. They gave them the ball about 52 times between the two of them, which is why they won.”
Lee Roy Selmon arrived at OU in 1972, the first year freshmen were allowed to play. It's a day guard John Roush will never forget.
“The first time I hit Lee Roy I saw stars. It was the hardest I had ever been hit,” Roush said. “I felt sorry for the opposing offensive linemen. He was so strong and so quick, you couldn't block him. He could dunk a basketball. That's how athletic he was.”
During the Selmon era, the Sooners would “rush three” and drop the other eight defenders into coverage.
“And they'd still get to the quarterback half the time,” Hughes said. “We never blitzed. We didn't have to.”
And the greatest player in OU history debate?
“I guarantee you, he is on the defensive side,” Davis said. “He was such a superior athlete, such a superior player, he has to be in the discussion. When you look at it I really don't see any challengers.
“I don't ever hear the guys from the '50s take exception. I don't think I've ever heard any player from Oklahoma take exception to Lee Roy being the best ever.”
Selmon's success continued in the NFL. He was selected to the Pro Bowl six times. He was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year his fourth season.
“When I heard all these guys say, ‘I got hit by Lee Roy,' I'd laugh because I'd tell them I had to face him every day in practice,” Davis said. “But the Selmons weren't just great players, they're wonderful people. Very humble. More athletic than anyone. Lee Roy was so special.”
Memories of Lee Roy Selmon go beyond national titles.
When Elrod heard the news about Selmon's stroke last Friday he became sick.
“It was devastating,” Elrod said. “The things he did on a football field, I was fortunate to be right next to him. What a phenomenal player, a phenomenal person.”
As for coach Barry Switzer's kicking off strategy, it was highly successful.
“We rarely were ever behind,” Davis said. “That's how good Lee Roy Selmon and those defenses were.”