Billy Vessels

Billy Dale Vessels (March 22, 1931 – November 17, 2001) was a gridiron football player. He played college football at the University of Oklahoma and won the Heisman Trophy in 1952. Vessels went on to play professional football with the National Football League's Baltimore Colts and the Western Interprovincial Football Union's Edmonton Eskimos.

Billy Vessels
Billy Vessels
Born:March 22, 1931
Cleveland, Oklahoma
Died:November 17, 2001 (aged 70)
Coral Gables, Florida
Career information
NFL draft1953 / Round: 1 / Pick: 2
Drafted byBaltimore Colts
Career history
As player
1953Edmonton Eskimos
1956Baltimore Colts
Career highlights and awards
AwardsHeisman Trophy (1952)
CFL's Most Outstanding Player Award (1953)
Eddie James Memorial Trophy (1953)
Career stats

College football career

Vessels led the Oklahoma Sooners to the national championship in 1950, scoring 15 touchdowns. In 1952, he won the Heisman Trophy. Playing under the legendary Bud Wilkinson, he became the first of seven Sooners, followed by Steve Owens (1969), Billy Sims (1978), Jason White (2003), Sam Bradford (2008), Baker Mayfield (2017), and [| Kyler Murray ] (2018) to win the award. During the 1952 season he rushed for 1,072 yards including seven 100 yard performances, and 17 touchdowns. These achievements led to his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1974.

He was also a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity at the University of Oklahoma, along with being a member of the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps.[1]

Professional football career

Vessels was the first pick of the Baltimore Colts in the first round of the 1953 NFL Draft, but did not join the Colts following the draft, electing instead to play with the Edmonton Eskimos of the then Western Interprovincial Football Union. During his rookie season in 1953, Vessels led the WIFU, the forerunner of the CFL Western Conference (later changed to Division) in rushing with 926 yards on 129 carries and with eight rushing touchdowns. He caught 20 passes for 310 yards and with one touchdown. Vessels also passed 393 yards on 30 attempts with 18 completions and 4 touchdown passes to having thrown only one interception and while on defence he snagged four interceptions.

Vessels became the first player to win the Schenley Award as the Canadian Rugby-Football Union's (CRU) Most Outstanding Player (the CFL did not come into existence until 1958). Vessels played only the one season in Canada. In 1956, he joined the NFL's Baltimore Colts, the team that had drafted him three years prior. That season, his only for the Colts, he had 11 receptions for 177 yards and a touchdown plus returned 16 kickoffs for 379 yards. Unfortunately, Vessels' professional career in the NFL was cut short by a leg injury.

Later life

Billy Vessels statue in Heisman Park at Memorial Stadium Norman, OK (1394519858)
Billy Vessels statue in Heisman Park at Memorial Stadium Norman, OK

After his football career, Vessels was employed for many years by The Mackle Company, one of Florida's leading developers. In the 1970s, he became involved in horse breeding and served on the Florida Pari-Mutuel Commission from 1976 to 1983, becoming its executive director. He was elected president of the National Association of State Racing Commissions in 1984 and served as director of the Florida division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering from 1987 to 1989.


In September 2003, Cleveland, Oklahoma renamed its high school football stadium "Billy Vessels Memorial Stadium" in honor of Vessels. In 2007, the University of Oklahoma, through the state's Centennial Celebration, awarded the Vessels Heisman statue to Cleveland, Oklahoma, where it sits across from Cleveland High School in front of the school's gymnasium and event center. OU replaced its statue, and those of its other Heisman winners, the next spring.


  1. ^ Peterson, Robert (November 26, 1952). "Oklahoma's Billy Vessels '52 Heisman Trophy Winner As Outstanding Collegiate Football Player in Nation". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved June 25, 2018. Free to read

External links

1950 Oklahoma Sooners football team

The 1950 Oklahoma Sooners football team represented the University of Oklahoma in the 1950 college football season, the 56th season of Sooner football. Led by fourth-year head coach Bud Wilkinson, they played their home games at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, and competed in the Big Seven Conference.

The Sooners finished the regular season 10–0 (6–0 in Big 7), and won their fifth consecutive conference championship, and eleventh overall. Both major polls (AP writers, UP coaches) awarded the Sooners with their first national championship at the end of the regular season. They were invited to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on New Year's Day, but were upset 13–7 by the Kentucky Wildcats, halting their winning streak at 32 games.

Five Sooners received All-American honors following the season: Frankie Anderson, Buddy Jones, Leon Heath, and Jim Weatherall. In addition, eight sooners won all conference honors, Anderson, Claude Arnold, Tom Catlin, Heath, Norman McNabb, Harry Moore, Billy Vessels, and Weatherall.

1951 Oklahoma Sooners football team

The 1951 Oklahoma Sooners football team represented the University of Oklahoma during the 1951 college football season. They played their home games at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium and competed as members of the Big Seven Conference. They were coached by head coach Bud Wilkinson.

1951 Sugar Bowl

The 1951 Sugar Bowl was the 17th Sugar Bowl, played on January 1, 1951, in New Orleans, Louisiana. It matched the Oklahoma Sooners and the Kentucky Wildcats.

Oklahoma (10–0) was the Big Seven champion and was ranked first in both major polls; seventh-ranked Kentucky (10–1) was the Southeastern Conference champion. Oklahoma averaged 34.5 points per game; only one team had scored more than twice in a game against Kentucky that season. Oklahoma entered the New Year's Day game with a 31-game winning streak; the Sooners' previous loss was in September 1948, and they were favored by six to seven points. Kentucky was led by head coach Bear Bryant, and Oklahoma by Bud Wilkinson. Notable players included Oklahoma's Billy Vessels and Kentucky's Charlie McClendon, Babe Parilli, and Wilbur "Shorty" Jamerson. Over 80,000 fans attended the game.

Kentucky fielded three defensive tackles for much of the game, which caused Oklahoma quarterback Claude Arnold to hurry his handoffs and passes. One Wildcat tackle was Bob Gain, winner of the Outland Trophy that season. The third was Walt Yowarsky, who had played less than five minutes on defense during the regular season. Yowarsky recovered a fumble on the Oklahoma 22-yard line, leading to Kentucky's first score: on the next play after Yowarsky's fumble recovery, Kentucky quarterback Babe Parilli threw a touchdown pass to Wilbur Jamerson for a 7–0 lead at the end of the first quarter. In the second quarter, the Wildcats drove 81 yards for a touchdown, a run by Wilbur Jamerson, and led 13–0 at halftime.

In the third quarter, Oklahoma had the ball, first and goal on the Kentucky 3-yard line. The Wildcat defense held on first and second down; on third down Yowarsky tackled the Oklahoma ball carrier for a five-yard loss. On fourth down, the Sooners were stopped and Kentucky took possession.

In the fourth quarter, Yowarsky recovered a fumbled punt. With seven minutes left in the game, Oklahoma quarterback Billy Vessels threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Merrill Green. Kentucky, however, retained possession of the football for the rest of the game, with the exception of one play, for a 13–7 victory. Yowarsky was named the game's Most Valuable Player.

1952 All-Big Seven Conference football team

The 1952 All-Big Seven Conference football team consists of American football players chosen by various organizations for All-Big Seven Conference teams for the 1952 college football season. The selectors for the 1952 season included the Associated Press (AP) and the United Press (UP). The AP selected separate offensive and defensive teams in 1952; the UP selected a single 11-man team. Players selected as first-team honorees by both the AP and UP are displayed in bold.

1952 College Football All-America Team

The 1952 College Football All-America team is composed of college football players who were selected as All-Americans by various organizations and writers that chose College Football All-America Teams in 1952. The eight selectors recognized by the NCAA as "official" for the 1952 season are (1) the Associated Press, (2) the United Press, (3) the All-America Board, (4) the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), (5) the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), (6) the International News Service (INS), (7) the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA), and (8) the Sporting News.

Maryland quarterback Jack Scarbath and Notre Dame halfback Johnny Lattner were the only two players to be unanimously named first-team All-Americans by all eight official selectors. Lattner was awarded the 1952 Heisman Trophy.

1952 Oklahoma Sooners football team

The 1952 Oklahoma Sooners football team represented the University of Oklahoma in the 1952 college football season. It was the 58th season of play for the Sooners. Led by head coach Bud Wilkinson, the Sooners offense scored 407 points, while the defense allowed only 141.

1953 NFL Draft

The 1953 National Football League Draft was held on January 22, 1953, at Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia.

Billy Bookout

Billy Paul Bookout (June 1, 1932 – October 10, 2008) was an American football player and coach. After a stellar high school and college career, Bookout spent two seasons with the Green Bay Packers before starting a coaching career at the high school level.

Despite an outstanding career at Wichita Falls, Bookout did not drew the attention of college scouts. Blessed with uncommon competitiveness and determination, the 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m) 160 pounds (73 kg) Bookout hitchhiked to Norman, Oklahoma, and tried to make the Sooners team as a walk-on. In the first practice, he hit All-American halfback Billy Vessels in the sternum and caused him to fumble. Soon after, he was awarded a scholarship by Sooners coach Bud Wilkinson.

After his sophomore season, Bookout transferred to Austin College, where he received Little All American honors and served as co-captain. Although he went undrafted in the 1955 NFL Draft, Bookout made the roster of the Green Bay Packers, beating out former All-Pro cornerback Clarence Self. During the 1955 NFL season, Bookout registered 2 interceptions and 3 caused fumbles. He left the NFL after the 1956 season.

Pursuing a coaching career, Bookout got his first job as junior varsity coach at Austin High School of El Paso, Texas. After the season, he was hired as head coach at newly founded El Paso Burges. At age 25, Bookout was at the time the youngest head coach in the state's highest classification. His lack of experience, however, caused the program to struggle. Bookout had to leave Burges two seasons later, and finally became an assistant coach at Bell HS in the Fort Worth suburb of Hurst. In 1968, he was again hired to initiate a football program at a newly founded high school, at Euless Trinity. Bookout served the school for eight years before retiring as head coach.

CFL's Most Outstanding Player Award

The Most Outstanding Player Award is annually awarded to the best player in the Canadian Football League. The two nominees for the award are the Terry Evanshen Trophy winner from the East Division, and the Jeff Nicklin Memorial Trophy winner from the West Division. The winner of the award is chosen by the Football Reporters of Canada.The award was created in 1953 as the Schenley Award, named after Schenley Distillers Corporation, to honour the most outstanding player in Canadian Rugby Union, one of the forerunner leagues of the CFL; Schenley ended its sponsorship of the awards in 1988.

Cleveland, Oklahoma

Cleveland is a city in Pawnee County, Oklahoma. The 2010 census population was 3,251, a decrease of 0.9 percent from 3,282 at the 2000 census.

Eddie James Memorial Trophy

The Eddie James Memorial Trophy is a Canadian Football League trophy, awarded to the leading rusher in the West Division. Unlike other CFL trophies, there is no equivalent for the East Division.

The award is named after Eddie James, a former running back for the then Regina Roughriders in the 1930s. In 1995, as part of the failed American expansion, the James trophy was awarded to the leading rusher in the North Division.

Indianapolis Colts draft history

This is a list of NFL Draft selections by the Indianapolis Colts. The first draft that the current incarnation of the Colts franchise participated in was 1953, in which they made halfback Billy Vessels of Oklahoma their first ever selection.

List of Canadian Football League annual rushing leaders

The CFL was officially formed in 1958. Statistics for the IRFU/Eastern Division date back to 1954 whereas WIFU/Western Division statistics date back to 1950.

List of Indianapolis Colts first-round draft picks

The Baltimore Colts joined the National Football League (NFL) in 1953 where they participated in their first NFL Draft and selected Billy Vessels, a halfback from the University of Oklahoma. The team's most recent first round selection was Malik Hooker, a safety from Ohio State in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Every year during April, each NFL franchise seeks to add new players to its roster through a collegiate draft officially known as the NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting but more commonly known as the NFL Draft. Teams are ranked in inverse order based on the previous season's record, with the worst record picking first, and the second worst picking second and so on. The two exceptions to this order are made for teams that appeared in the previous Super Bowl; the Super Bowl champion always picks last, and the Super Bowl loser always picks second last. Teams have the option of trading away their picks to other teams for different picks, players, cash, or a combination thereof. Thus, it is not uncommon for a team's actual draft pick to differ from their assigned draft pick, or for a team to have extra or no draft picks in any round due to these trades.The Colts have selected the number one overall pick in the draft on seven separate occasions, one of which was used to select Super Bowl XLI MVP Peyton Manning. They have also selected the second overall pick five times and the third overall pick twice. The team's five selections from Ohio State University are the most chosen by the Colts from one university.

Sporting News College Football Player of the Year

The Sporting News College Football Player of the Year award is given to the player of the year in college football as adjudged by Sporting News.

The Oklahoma Heismen

The Oklahoma Heismen is a 2005 documentary made by Vintage Sports Productions.

Tagline: From Small Town Athletic Fields to the Downtown Athletic Club.

UPI College Football Player of the Year

The United Press International College Football Player of the Year Award was among the first and most recognized college football awards. With the second bankruptcy of UPI in 1991, along with that of its parent company, the award was discontinued. Offensive and defensive players were eligible. Unlike the Heisman, it was never affiliated with a civic organization or named after a player (like the Walter Camp Award). Like all UPI college awards at the time, it was based on the votes of NCAA coaches. Billy Cannon, O.J. Simpson, and Archie Griffin are the only two-time winners.

Walt Yowarsky

Walter Robert Yowarsky (May 10, 1928 – November 30, 2014) was an American football defensive end, offensive lineman, coach, and scout in the National Football League (NFL) for 50 years.


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