I was thumbing through some research books relative to the Pro Football Hall of Fame recently, and I saw a note that a sportswriter and voter once said that Doak Walker is the least deserving Hall of Famer ever selected.
I realize that many of you readers do not know who Doak Walker was, but many of you have in fact heard of the Doak Walker Award, given annually to the best running back in college football.
The connection, and the reason for this blog, is that Doak, one of the most elegant gentlemen anyone could ever meet, was a special assignments coach back in 1966 for the Denver Broncos, helping out (I am told, as even I was not here then) just by giving his opinions on who could and who could not play. A lot of guys on the Broncos in those days could not play, but Walker could, and I just shook my head when I read the writer’s comment on his worthiness for the Hall of Fame.
So, since you probably do not know, if you choose to keep reading, I will tell you a little about the guy they give the running back award to.
First of all, I think the world is waiting for that award to go to another Doak Walker, which in many ways seems very unlikely-not because the backs today lack talent, but because Doak was one of those special guys who ascended from greatness to legend and still seemed undervalued.
A great prep player in Dallas, he was a consensus three-time All-American at Southern Methodist-that is, every All American team for three straight years only listed one halfback, and it was Walker-one year he appeared on the cover of 47 magazines, and ne was “Life”!!
Even most astonishing than being a three-time All-American is this: consider that his three All-American years were interrupted by World War II era military service. An amazing feat.
He played running back, defensive back and was the placekicker at SMU, taking time along the way to letter to baseball and basketball at SMU. Can you imagine the publicity today if the best running back in the country, a three-time All-American, ALSO lettered in two other major sports? He was “pin-up” handsome, blond, blue-eyed, with great teeth and so much humility you never would have thought he was a big man on campus. He was, in fact, the only man on campus in America.
He won the Heisman Trophy in 1948 and his impact on SMU football was so great that for many years the Cotton Bowl was called “The House that Doak Built.”
I personally think he is the most famous individual in American sport to ever have worn uniform number 37, which by the way is retired by the Detroit Lions.
He was voted All-Pro four time with the Lions, and while his career was short-he said he retired early “while I still have my own teeth”, which by the way, were perfect-but he was selected to the Hall of Fame in spite of a short career, because he was so impactful for the Lions. Detroit won two NFL titles in that time and was the dominant team in pro football in the mid-1950′s. He led the NFL in scoring twice (1950 and 1955) and scored 534 points in his career.
The stories just go on and on about Doak Walker and I won’t bore you with them-same after game with the winning touchdown, the unbelievable run, the winning kick, the key interception, he was transcendant of football, relaly.
Walker married his high school sweetheart, had a family and later in life married Olympic skier Skeeter Werner. He was a Steamboat Springs resident and legend by then, and it was a loss to all. The mountain on which he had his fatal accident, by the way, was Mount Werner, named for Skeeter’s brother Buddy, who was America’s best Alpine skier at the 1964 Winter Olympics.
He died suddenly on September 27, 1998 after that devastating ski accident in Colorado just days before.
I can’t say I have left out the best stuff, I have truly tried not to, but you have to edit somewhere. Truly, Doak Walker was bigger than legend.
Hollywood would have to tone down the facts to make it seem realistic.
So, the next time you hear about the Doak Walker award being given to someone, that’s who the man behind the award was.