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Oklahoma football: Part quarterback hero, part preacher — Steve Davis' impact comes to light after his death

From football fans who remember gridiron glory to aging baby boomers who remember how a mop-haired preacher/quarterback touched their soul, former Oklahoma quarterback Steve Davis' impact has resurged in the week since his March 17 death in a South Bend, Ind., plane crash.
by Berry Tramel Published: March 25, 2013

Four decades after Davis quarterbacked the Sooners, his effect on teammates is still felt.

John Roush, an all-American lineman in 1974, married Rhonda 37 years ago. Davis officiated the ceremony. Both Roushes were part of the funeral Monday.

John Roush termed Davis a “mentor, confidant, friend. A guy that was our leader.”

Billy Sims, who eventually would win the Heisman Trophy, was a freshman in Davis' senior year of 1975.

“First preacher I ever had for a quarterback,” Sims said. “You couldn't get him off his beliefs. Amazing. Especially in the '70s, for a guy like that, being true to the Lord.”

Davis became a mentor to Brian Bosworth, who played at OU more than a decade after Davis.

“Not many like him on the planet,” said Bosworth, who has become an avowed Christian. “We spent a lot of time having good conversations. I wasn't as deep at that point in my journey.”

Bo Davis, Steve's son and a former baseball player at the University of Missouri, said he agrees with those who call his dad a legend. But not because Steve Davis was a championship quarterback or Baptist preacher or ABC football analyst.

“I never saw him play a down,” Bo Davis said. “Can't remember a single game he called (on television). Never saw him preach a single sermon.”

But Steve Davis taught his son to ride a bike and hit a curveball and throw a spiral. “He taught me how to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat,” Bo said from the pulpit. “And because he instilled in me the value of outworking your competition, especially when you appear to be overmatched.

“He is a legend because he urged me to thoughtfully consider the choices that I make in life. ‘Choose wisely,' he would say. All he ever wanted to be was a good dad.”

Pastor Spoo told the story of Davis' Jeep, bought while he was at OU. Davis' brother George borrowed it and turned it over on sand dunes. Steve Davis had it repaired. Joe and Todd Davis also borrowed it on separate occasions — and wrecked it.

“Most of us would fix our brothers,” Spoo said. “Steve fixed the Jeep.”

In the hallway of First Baptist after the ceremony, Steve Owens, another Heisman winner, shook his head and said, “We lost a good one.”

But Pastor Spoo prefers a different word choice. Steve and Joe Davis were off-roading one day when Joe was forced to admit he was lost. Steve got behind the wheel, quickly got them back to the main road and all was well.

Later, Steve told Joe, “Brother, I was never lost.”

And so, Spoo told the thousand strong, “Today, Steve is gone, but even now, he's not lost.”


Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at has disabled the comments for this article.
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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