A handful of college quarterbacks have won more games but Steve Davis' record as Oklahoma's starting quarterback — 32-1-1 — is legendary.
Two national championships.
Former OU defensive back Randy Hughes, who played six seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, said Davis possessed similar leadership qualities as NFL Hall of Hame quarterback Roger Staubach.
“With Steve we were never out of a game,” Hughes said. “It was the same with Roger. Everybody had confidence in both of them. You don't find very many people in life that generate that type of confidence. Steve was an unbelievable leader in addition to being very talented player.”
Other former OU teammates had similar comments concerning Davis, who died Sunday in a private plane crash in South Bend, Ind.
Former All-American running back Joe Washington recalled how Davis moved up the depth chart. Davis arrived on campus as the No. 8 quarterback but became the starter his redshirt sophomore season.
“One thing I'll say about a kid that gets the last scholarship, maybe he isn't the No. 1, 2 or 3 guys but if you can get a kid that had the enthusiasm Steve had about the University of Oklahoma, you get a little extra,” Washington said. “What he lacked in skills or ability, he made up with want-to and desire.”
Davis established early on he could make clutch plays to help the Sooners win games.
In his third start OU rallied from a 20-7 halftime deficit to defeat Miami 24-20 in 1973. The Sooners took the lead on a 52-yard pass from Davis to Tinker Owens.
“Steve said, ‘Look we're going to run this play, I'm going to throw it and I expect you to catch it,'” Owens said. “He threw it right there. I caught it. It probably was one of the more exciting endings we had there. There weren't many back then because we were usually ahead late…
“Once he got into that offense it was tailor-made for him. He was tough, he was big and he could throw the ball when we needed him to.”
Davis won so many games the one defeat stands out, a 23-3 setback to Kansas at Owen Field in 1975 which snapped a 28-game winning streak.
“People said, ‘Steve, the boos weren't that bad,'” Davis told The Oklahoman a few years ago. “Well, it was bad enough for my parents to hear it. It was bad enough for the entire team to hear it.
“It was very painful, and I remember shaking my fist at them. It was a defiant moment on my part, but it also was a defining moment for our team. We made a conscientious effort that for the rest of the way, we were playing for us.”
It turned out to be the only loss of Davis' career.
The only other blemish was a 7-7 tie against USC in Davis' second career start in 1973.
Offensive tackle Karl Baldischwiler, who played nine NFL seasons, arrived on campus late in Davis' career but instantly discovered why the Sooners usually won when Davis ran the offense.
“He was like a little general,” Baldischwiler said. “That was his strong suit other than his athletic ability. He was all business, a great leader in the huddle. He was great at getting everybody calmed down and getting them to do exactly what they were supposed to do.”
Washington said Davis' winning demeanor can be traced to his Sallisaw roots.
“He understood what it meant to wear that crimson and cream,” Washington said. “He grew up watching Bobby Warmack. He wanted to walk like Bobby Warmack. He wanted to look like Bobby Warmack.
“When you have a kid that eats, breathes and sleeps Oklahoma like he did, you're going to get a player that lays everything on the line for you.”
Hughes maintains the best team during the mid-1970s was the non-national championship team Davis directed in 1973 his first season as a starter.
“He came in the same year as Barry (Switzer debuted as head coach),” Hughes said. “Both of their rises to the top was really amazing. It was a magical run, pretty unbelievable.”