Joe Rector was part of some incredibly well-known college football successes playing for Bud Wilkinson at Oklahoma in the 1950s.
He was there for a pair of national championships and a good portion of the historic 47-game winning streak.
But Rector knows he might have never made it to OU if it hadn't been for Muskogee High School coach Paul Young.
“That was the turning point in my life,” said Rector, who was an Oklahoman All-State selection in 1954. “With the circumstances I had, it was a pleasure playing for coach Young. He mapped out everything for me in my future.
“My mother died when I was 4 years old. I was semi-raised by my father. When I got to high school, I was in wonderland — wondering what I was going to do. Paul Young took me under his wing and gave me some direction for what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
In observance of the 100th edition of The Oklahoman's All-State football team, to be announced in late December, the newspaper will recognize players from the previous 99 teams.
Rector was joined on the All-State roster by teammate Olen Treadway, a passing quarterback who ended up playing at Iowa after being named The Oklahoman's Back of the Year in 1954.
Muskogee's 1954 team went 9-0-1, with a scoreless tie against Tulsa Rogers. It didn't get a shot at a state championship, because of the state association's declaration of “too much football,” when it canceled the '54 playoffs.
“We were fortunate to have a lot of talent in those years at Muskogee,” Treadway said. “Guys like Joe, the Burris twins, Kurt and Bob, who went to play at OU. And Ernie Day.
“We won most of our games over a stretch of our time there, with several very talented guys who went on to play football at major universities.”
Rector remembers getting the opportunity to play in the All-State game — well, he remembers the first half, anyway.
“It was played at Taft Stadium,” he said. “I got knocked out right before halftime. I woke up laying underneath the goal posts, but I don't remember anything about the rest of that game.”
Rector tried coaching for a few years after college.
“I got fired a couple times and decided I wasn't a coach,” he said.
He found his career in the real estate business, and worked in it until he retired. Now 75, he lives in Oklahoma City. So does Treadway, who coached at Iowa and Oklahoma State before taking a job in banking, and the two try to stay in touch.
As he enjoys the latter years of life after a successful career in and out of football, Rector hasn't forgotten Young's influence.
“I was very fortunate to be put in that place in the 1950s when Paul Young came along in my life,” he said. “It was a really rough time, but he stuck with me. I can thank him for a whole lot of things.”
Over the next five weeks, The Oklahoman will look back on the previous 99 years of Oklahoman All-State football teams, leading up to the unveiling of the 100th All-State team on Dec. 23. Each Sunday and Wednesday until then, we'll take a look back at a team from each decade. The second installment of the series looks at the fours — 1914, 1924, 1934, etc. On Sunday, we'll look back at the fives.