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Legendary Oklahoma quarterback Steve Davis dies in plane crash

Steve Davis

Steve Davis wasn't the quickest wishbone quarterback to ever play at the University of Oklahoma, but he achieved something no other was ever able to accomplish—two national championships.

Davis, 60, died Sunday night while onboard on a jet that crashed into three homes in South Bend, Ind.

A product of Sallisaw, Okla., he came to OU in 1971 and was eighth among eight quarterbacks on the roster. Two years later he beat out four others to become the starting quarterback. Davis started 34 games for the Sooners from 1973-75 and helped Oklahoma to national championships in 1974 and 1975.

“Steve was one of those kids that no one wanted,” coach Barry Switzer told the Tulsa World. “He was one of the last guys that got recruited. He was last team (as a freshman at OU) and ended up winning two national championships and was a three-year starter. He believed in himself when no one else did.”

Davis won 32 games of those games during his career. Oklahoma tied USC in 1973 and didn’t lose until dropping a 23-3 decision to Kansas in 1975. He rushed for 2,124 yards and scored 34 touchdowns during his career. Eleven times he rushed for more than 100 yards in a game. He completed 86 of 215 passes for 2,036 yards with 21 TDs and 17 INTs in an offensive formation that wasn’t famous for airing out the football.

Davis also was good at reading defenses. For example, OU was tied with Texas in the fourth quarter in their 1975 matchup. The Sooners had marched to the UT 33. Steve noticed the Longhorns were loading up on the right side. So, he changed the play.

“I saw more people on the right side than on the left,” he said. On the snap Horace Ivory fired off from his fullback position, grabbed the handoff from Davis and bolted to the left side and down the sideline 33 yards to the end zone. OU won 24-17.

In his final game against Michigan in the 1976 Orange Bowl, Davis was delivering the pregame benediction when the announcer interrupted him with the announcement that UCLA had defeated Ohio State. This meant that the Sooners and Wolverines were now playing for the national title. Davis was named the game’s offensive most valuable player. He delivered a 40-yard pass to Tinker Owens to set up OU’s first touchdown, and he later scored on a 10-yard run for a 14-0 lead. OU went on to a 14-6 victory. Davis was inducted into the Orange Bowl Hall of Fame in 2007.

Davis was an ordained Baptist minister and active with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He was working in real estate and radio broadcasting. He also was a motivational speaker. He had been analyst for ABC and CBS and hosted the Barry Switzer Show. After a hiatus from television, he resurfaced last fall as a pre-game analyst for Sooners Sports TV.