Heisman Park, The University of Oklahoma
Recently, the University of Oklahoma’s football program has become nationally recognized for its Heisman winning football players. When a football player is awarded the Heisman Trophy at OU, a large statue is erected on campus to commemorate the achievements of that player. Beginning in 2005, OU decided to place each Heisman winner’s statue on the east side of Gaylord Memorial Stadium and name the strip of Heisman statues “Heisman Park”.
Backstory and Context
The University of Oklahoma has a long tradition of Heisman trophy winners. From the early 1950s up to as recently as the 2018 college football season, OU has been one of the most competitive universities in the Heisman trophy race nationwide. "As part of Oklahoma's Centennial, the commission", granted the funding of all the Heisman statues. Heisman park is a great remembrance of past football superstars that have come through the University of Oklahoma.
The first Heisman trophy was awarded in 1935 to Jay Berwanger from the University of Chicago. This began the tradition of acknowledging the most valuable player in college football. The award was named after John W. Heisman, an exceptional football player and coach. Heisman revolutionized the game of football and put it on the path towards what we recognize as football today.
Heisman Park was constructed in 2005 on the eastern side of Gaylord Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. The park initially showcased the University of Oklahoma’s first two Heisman Trophy winners, which included the statues of Billy Vessels and Steve Owens. In the following years, the statues of Billy Sims and Jason White would be sculpted and placed in Heisman Park. Each of these statues “standing more than a dozen feet high” keep the names and legacies of OU’s finest football players fresh in the minds of Oklahoma football fans.
Heisman Park is now a top attraction of Norman, Oklahoma. Due to Oklahoma being famous for its football programs, monuments built towards the recognition of some of Oklahoma's most accomplished ball players are frequently visited. In the coming years, two more Heisman statues will be added to Heisman Park. Those statues will be the two most recent Heisman winners from the University of Oklahoma, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.
Both Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray are two of the most prominent sports figures in the national conversation today. Mayfield won his Heisman trophy in 2017 after breaking his own record for having the best passing efficiency in FBS history in a single year. The following year in 2018, Kyler Murray won the Heisman trophy after surpassing Mayfield's previously set record.
Beyond Murray and Mayfield, OU's five other Heisman winners are Billy Vessels, Steve Owens, Billy Sims, Jason White and Sam Bradford. Vessels won his Heisman Trophy in 1952 after being the first Heisman winner to rush for over 1,000 yards. "He accounted for 1,280 yards of total offense and 18 total touchdowns". Owens won his Heisman trophy in 1969 after " he willed OU to a six-win season" by rushing for 1,523 yards and scoring 23 touchdowns. Sims won the Heisman trophy in 1978 by leading "the nation with 1,762 yards rushing and scored 20 touchdowns".
Jason White won the Heisman trophy in 2003 after "throwing for 3,744 yards and 40 touchdowns with only eight interceptions". That same year White led the OU to a 12-1 regular season record. Same Bradford won his Heisman trophy in 2008. "Bradford threw for 4,720 yards and 50 touchdowns while leading the nation in passing efficiency at 186.28". That set an all time passing efficiency record for the NCAA that stood until it was later broken by Baker Mayfield in 2017 and then again by Kyler Murray the following year.
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