NORMAN, Okla. – As a child, Steve Davis dreamed of playing for Oklahoma and even tucked away a picture of the Sooners quarterback he idolized in his dresser drawer.
Decades later, he is among the standard-bearers for the position at one of college footballs most storied programs. Davis, who started every game – compiling a remarkable 32-1-1 record – during Barry Switzers first three seasons as head coach, and won national championships in 1974 and 1975, died Sunday in a plane crash in South Bend. He was 60.
The Sooners went 11-0 in 1974, then won the national title again the following year after going 11-1.
It was a storybook career for Davis, who finished with one of the best records for a starting quarterback in the sports history after a humble beginning at Oklahoma. He grew up in Sallisaw in the eastern part of the state and developed a love for the Sooners. In an interview with the Oklahoman newspaper last year, he described how he hid a picture from an Oklahoma football brochure in his top dresser drawer.
It was a shot into the huddle, and there was Bobby Warmack, who was my idol. He had that eye-black, and the double chin strap and the towel out of the front of his pants, Davis told the paper. I took that picture, and I took a big, black magic marker and wrote WHEN?
The day Davis made his first start in the 1973 season opener, he said, his mother took the picture and wrote on it: TONIGHT.
Oklahoma beat Baylor in the opener, then tied powerhouse Southern Cal – with Lynn Swann and Pat Haden – in the second game.
After that, Davis and the Sooners won 28 straight.
I will never get away from the fact that I was an Oklahoma quarterback. I will never get away from the fact that I only lost one game, Davis said in the 2008 book The Die-Hard Fans Guide to Sooner Football. All of those things are a part of my legacy and my history. I am very thankful for what happened. I dont know that I would trade my career for any other quarterback that has ever played at OU.
Switzer recounted how Davis wasnt highly regarded as a high school player and was recruited simply as an athlete before he caught the coachs eye during a freshman game, back when first-year players were ineligible to play. Switzer turned to offensive coordinator Galen Hall and remarked that he might have found a quarterback.
Steve was surrounded by great talent on those teams, but he was truly an exceptional leader, Switzer said. I was proud of him. The entire state of Oklahoma was proud of him. We still are.
Davis worked as a television sports commentator after his career was over, including game day telecasts for Sooners games last season.
Davis parents, Jim and Patsy Davis of Sallisaw, said their son loved to fly and had earned a pilots license but did not own a plane. Davis father described him as a booster with enough clout that he had a lot of input in the athletic department.
Patsy Davis said she believed it was possible her son would have been in the co-pilots seat. It wasnt immediately clear who was at the controls when it crashed.
The Davises described Wes Caves, 58, of Tulsa, who also died in the crash, as a friend of Davis but they did not know the other two passengers who survived.
This is a tragic loss, Switzer said. Steve was a tremendous role model for student-athletes everywhere. He was a good student and a fantastic person.