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Greatest Sooner Running Backs, Number 5: Steve Owens

To qualify this ranking of running backs at Oklahoma, I have included only players that I have personally seen in person at the stadium or live on television.  I began watching Sooner football in 1958 and my remembrances go back to 1961.  With that, I have not included any player before 1961. This is the first part of a series of greatest Sooner football players by position.  Please comment on my lists and argue your best Sooner players.  There are no right or wrong rankings.   The lists, started with Joe Don Looney (10th best running back), will include offensive and defensive positions.  Statistics, abilities, and overall significance to the OU football program are all included in picking the ten, but when all things are equal, my personal preference is the tie breaker. 



Steve Owens (All-American 1968, 1969; Heisman Trophy Winner 1969)


The historic records of Steve Owens project him into the 5th greatest running back that I have watched in Sooner history.  The last regular season game Owens played in 1969 was in Stillwater against Oklahoma State and was, for me, significant.   After the  game in which  my favorite Sooner Owens had rushed for a career 261 yards on 55 carries I went onto the grass of Lewis Field and pulled a souvenir handful of that brown grass.  I remember that experience today.  Owens was the bullwork of that Sooner team, a player that could hit the line over and over and with the fine blocking of his offensive line and fullback, get three, four or five yards almost every time.  He was magnificent and his performance in Stillwater is as fine a game as any running back in OU history.  (It would be like the 2018 OU/Army game if only one back rushed almost every down against OU and the Sooner defense could not stop the onslaught.  Owens was the first “monster” back….strong, enduring, fast and the toughest man on the field.)


Owens is currently 4th on the all-time rushing list for OU and still has the record for most rushing touchdowns in a career with 57 and 100 yard games, coming in at 23 afternoons where he hit the century mark.  Owens only played three seasons as of the freshman ineligible rule and a freshman season could have pushed his totals higher.  Owens held the national record of career rushing with 3,867 that stood for two years.  His point total per game was also a national record that lasted for one year.
Owens five year NFL career was with Detroit, where another Heisman winner would follow in the future.  Owens was the first Lion to rush for 1000 yards in a season. 

Top photo:  AP




owens photo



Below:  Owens rushing stats at OU










1967 SO 207 869 13 4.2 4 0
1968 JR 393 1,649 21 4.2 10 0
1969 SR 358 1,523 23 4.3 9 3
Totals 958 4,041 57 0 4.2 23 3

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About Fred Pahlke

Fred Pahlke, an Oklahoma native has viewed over 10,000 sporting events in his 65 years. A season ticket holder of the Oklahoma City Thunder, former season tickect holder for the Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma City University Chiefs/Stars, he is an expert in both professional and college basketball and football. A high school athlete at Classen High School in basketball and tennis, he played amateur tennis after high school in the Missouri Valley Tennis Association. A graduate of Oklahoma City University, he taught in the public schools for 6 years before becoming a building administrator in the Oklahoma City Public Schools for 31 years, 28 as the Principal of various schools in the district. He has guided various high school and college athletes in his time as an educator and coach. Fredsportsextra has recorded 101, 410 article views in its first ten months, from August 2015 through May 2016.

2 Responses to “Greatest Sooner Running Backs, Number 5: Steve Owens”

  1. John
    January 3, 2019 at 9:35 pm

    He wasn’t even the best running back on his own team.

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