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Heisman 1978 Billy Sims
AP Photo/Dave Pickoff

Sooner Speed

1978 Heisman winner Billy Sims

In his day, Billy Sims was the coolest of the cool. With his flamboyantly large Afro and slashing running style in Oklahoma's free-flowing wishbone offense, Sims epitomized the Barry Switzer '70s in Norman. He was a highlight waiting for an option pitch to happen. He was the best of all the dazzling backs Switzer pirated out of the state of Texas. But injuries kept him from proving it. Until 1978. As a redshirt junior, the guy from Hooks, Texas, who was once called "a rattlesnake on roller skates," slithered through the Big Eight Conference for 1,762 yards, best in the nation. He cranked out three straight 200-yard games at one point, the first player in league history to do so. He averaged a whopping 7.6 yards per carry as the Sooners went 10-1. But in their only loss, 17-14 to Nebraska, Sims committed a key fumble. Despite a history that showed a star Oklahoma running back had a great chance at the Heisman (Billy Vessels, Steve Owens), Sims was worried he'd be bypassed by voters in favor of USC running back Charles White or one of two quarterbacks, Michigan's Rick Leach or Penn State's Chuck Fusina. The voting was close enough to show that Sims' concerns were merited. Fusina received the most first-place votes (163), but Sims was named on more ballots and took the little stiff-armer by a total of 77 points. His 827 points were the lowest Heisman-winning total since Terry Baker won with 707 points in 1962, and only 2001 winner Eric Crouch (770) has won with fewer since then. But even if Sims didn't win over all the voters, they had to respect the Afro at the award ceremony.
-- Pat Forde


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