Sean Merriman and RJ Young of Fox Sports ranked the greatest college football players from all 50 states. It was the state they were from, not necessarily the state they played their collegiate football. Two Oklahoma Sooners legends made appearances on the list, as Sam Bradford of Oklahoma and Billy Sims of Missouri represent the Crimson and Cream.
The case for Sam Bradford:
Coming out of Putnam City North High in Oklahoma City, Bradford could have played hockey, basketball and golf on scholarship. But he chose football. And he chose football knowing that a five-star prospect in quarterback Rhett Bomar and two other quarterbacks — Keith Nichol and Joey Halzle — were on the depth chart ahead of him when he spurned the likes of Texas A&M and others to commit to OU’s 2006 class. As a redshirt freshman in 2007, Bradford won the starting QB job, vindicating Bob Stoops’ faith in him. In 2008, Bradford took OU to its first (and most recent) appearance in a national title game since the 2004 season and became just the third Heisman Trophy winner from the state (Jason White in 2003, Steve Owens in 1969).
Bradford ranks third in Sooners history in all-time passing yards. From 2007-2009, the Oklahoma City native tossed for 8,403 yards and 88 touchdowns. However, he’s remembered most for his 08′ campaign. As mentioned, Bradford won the Heisman that year and was the last quarterback to bring the Sooners all the way back to a national title game.
Bradford’s 4,720-yard single-season passing record still stands in Norman (although Landry Jones fell just two yards shy of breaking it), and he became the fifth Sooner in program history to win the Heisman. His single-season touchdown record (50)also remains unchallenged in the Oklahoma record books.
Of course, he’s remembered primarily for his college career. Still, Bradford did carve out an injury-riddled career in the NFL. He accrued more than 130 million dollars between the St. Louis Rams, Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, and Arizona Cardinals before exiting the league as fellow Sooners’ quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray was drafted to the Cardinals.
Several Sooners could make a case to be considered the greatest player to come out of the state of Oklahoma. In particular, Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon, who along with his brothers, formed one of the best defensive fronts in college football in the 1970s.
Turning to the state of Missouri, Billy Sims is the easy selection, though Kellen Moore Sr. would make a strong argument as well.
The case for Billy Sims:
Born and raised in St. Louis, Sims attended the University of Oklahoma, where he started for the Sooners from 1975 to 1979. He was a two-time All-American in his junior and senior year and was the recipient of the 1978 Heisman Trophy. Sims, who rushed for 1,762 yards on 231 carries during his Heisman season, became only the sixth junior in NCAA history to win college football’s most prestigious award. He was the runner-up in his senior year after totaling 1,506 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns.
Sims may not be from Oklahoma, but he’s certainly a legend there now. As mentioned by Merriman and Young, the running back ran roughshod over college football from 1978-1979, stockpiling 3268 rush yards and 44 touchdowns.
Sims was the third Sooner to take home the Heisman and is second in Oklahoma history in four statistical categories. Most notably, the running back generated 53 rushing TDs over his five-year college career.
Sims was drafted to the Detroit Lines in 1980, where he spent his entire career and made three pro bowls from 1983-1985. The former NFL Rookie of the Year ran his way into 42 touchdowns and over 5100 rushing yards per Pro Football Reference before a tragic turf accident (behind a paywall) ended his career.
Billy Sims still runs to this day, just not on the football field. The Sooner turned Lion is now a barbeque titan with over 50 restaurants across seven states.