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Stephen Sellner | | September 1, 2014

Pillars of the Program: Oklahoma

Pillars of the Program: Oklahoma football

The top three pillars of the program are in the video above -- now check out who just missed the cut ...

With seven national championships, there’s no questioning Oklahoma’s place in college football history. The Sooners have won 44 conference titles, and have been particularly dominant since the turn of the 21st century, having won seven conferences championships, not including 2012 when OU claimed a share of the title. With such a winning tradition, it’s no wonder the Sooners have produced greatness in Adrian Peterson, Billy Sims and Lee Roy Selmon. And that’s not including a certain player who never lost a game in his career. OU has produced plenty of winners, and with it, plenty of pillars of its program.

Billy Sims
Running Back | 1975-79
♦ 1978 Heisman Trophy winner
♦ Two-time All-American (1978-79)
Lee Roy Selmon
Defensive End | 1972-75
♦ 1975 Lombardi Award winner
♦ Two-time All-American (1974-75)
Adrian Peterson
Running Back | 2004-06
♦ All-American (2004)
♦ 2004 Heisman Trophy runner-up
Sam Bradford
Quarterback | 2007-09
♦ 2008 Heisman Trophy winner
♦ Career: 8,403 pass yds., 88 TDs
Tommy McDonald
Running Back | 1954-56
♦ Never lost a game at OU (31-0)
♦ Led OU in three categories in 1955
Steve Owens
Running Back | 1967-69
♦ 1969 Heisman Trophy winner
♦ Career: 4,401 rush yds., 57 TDs
Billy Vessels
Running Back | 1950-52
♦ 1952 Heisman Trophy winner
♦ Helped OU to 1950 national title
Roy Williams
Defensive Back | 1999-2001
♦ Seven interceptions in two years
♦ Author of famous "Superman Play"

Sam Bradford
It’s hard to find a more accomplished quarterback in OU history. Bradford won the 2008 Heisman after completing 67.9 percent of his passes, throwing for 4,720 yards and 50 TDs -- all school records. That Heisman campaign saw Bradford throw at least four touchdowns in eight of 14 games. Still, the Sooners fell to Florida in that season's championship game.

Let’s get back to the record books: Bradford is first in school history in completion percentage (67.6 percent) and second in passing yards (8,403) and touchdown passes (88).

Tommy McDonald
If you’re looking for a player to symbolize winning, Tommy McDonald is your guy. Oklahoma never lost a game he played in, going 31-0 from 1954-56 and producing national championships in ’55 and ’56.

Speaking of the ’55 team, McDonald was what you might call “productive.” He led OU in … wait for it … passing (284 yards), rushing (715) and receiving (110). If that wasn’t enough, McDonald was third in the Heisman voting the following year after accumulating 853 yards and 12 TDs on the ground while racking up 282 yards on just 12 catches, four of them for touchdowns. He was an All-American and Maxwell Award winner that year as well.

Steve Owens
Steve Owens won the 1969 Heisman after tallying 1,523 yards and 23 touchdowns. Owens, a running back, was a two-time All-American and his 57 career rushing TDs sit atop the Sooner record book.

His 4,401 career rushing yards were tops in NCAA history at the time, and currently are fourth-most in OU history. Owens was the epitome of a grinder; his 958 carries are the most in school history -- 199 more than the second-place finisher.

Owens remained close to the Sooners after his playing time was over, serving as OU’s athletic director from 1996-98.

Billy Vessels
Oklahoma has five Heisman Trophy winners and five runners-up in its history. The man who started it all was Vessels. He claimed the Sooners’ first Heisman in 1952 after finishing second in the nation in rushing (1,072 yards) and touchdowns (17 rushing, one receiving).

Vessels and OU’s biggest first came two years earlier when the Sooners won the 1950 national championship. In that season, Vessels led the team in rushing and receiving.

After Vessels’ death in 2001, OU president David Boren said of Vessels: “In many ways, he exemplified the best of Sooner Spirit.”

Roy Williams
Williams’ statistics at Oklahoma are fitting to be on this list – seven interceptions in two years -- but it was his presence in the secondary and playmaking ability that really makes his time in a Sooners uniform so noteworthy.

Williams came up with one of the biggest plays in OU history in a 2001 meeting at Texas, with both teams undefeated and in the top five. The Sooners clung to a 7-3 lead late in the fourth quarter as the Longhorns started their drive inside their own 5-yard-line. As Texas quarterback Chris Sims dropped back to pass, Williams leaped over an attempted cut-block while coming on a blitz and deflected Sims’ pass, forcing an interception return for a touchdown to seal the game. The play still lives on in OU history, known as “The Superman Play”.

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