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Steve Owens
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Oklahoma's Prolific Scorer

1969 Heisman winner Steve Owens

Winning the Heisman Trophy can lead a man into places he never dreamed he'd be. Ask Oklahoma running back Steve Owens. The 1969 winner found himself on Air Force One, of all things, with President Richard Nixon. He went with the president from the Heisman ceremony in New York on Dec. 4 to Arkansas on Dec. 6, where Texas was playing Arkansas in the fabled "Game of the Century." Along the way, Owens wound up trading gold cuff links with the president -- his new Heisman set for a pair made from Black Hills gold that was prospected by Nixon's father-in-law. Owens kept the trophy for himself and proudly returned with it to his home state. Owens was truly a native son, having been born in Gore, Okla., and raised in Miami, Okla. His chance to play for the Sooners in the '60s was a dream come true, and he made the most of it after an unimpressive start. Owens set what then was an NCAA record with 17 consecutive 100-yard rushing games. He also set NCAA career records for carries (905), rushing yards (3,867), touchdowns (56) and points (336). But team success largely eluded Oklahoma during his senior year. The Sooners went 6-4 and were badly beaten by Kansas State, Missouri and Nebraska. That helped create a muddled Heisman race that saw four defensive players and four juniors finish in the top 10 of what has historically been an offense- and senior-dominated award. The news that Owens won was relayed in a telephone call to the university president. He summoned Owens and his wife, Barbara, to his office. "I was running pretty hard," Owens told author David Pietrusza. "But I had a hard time catching my wife. She was leading me by about 50 yards." Owens has continued to represent Oklahoma in the community and in business. He was the school's athletic director for a time in the 1990s and maintains a home and business in Norman.
-- Pat Forde

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