It sounds like the title of a great epic story, but it is in fact a true story of my father’s involvement with the Oklahoma Sooners football team of the 1950’s, the very one that still holds today the longest winning streak of 47 straight games in division I football. My father is not a boastful person, at least not to me. He is a very hardworking and humble man. Football was a means to an end; it was the opportunity for an education and a path to escape the poverty of his family farm. Football players today relish the thought of multi-million dollar contracts and endorsements. In the end, the hardest challenge is not of being a sports athlete, but of an intellectual athlete. After the glory days are over it is the conditioned mind and undaunted spirit that must support a man and his family.
So what did football teach my father? Plenty. He began in junior high and became a two-time all state player at Breckenridge High School in Texas. Recruited by Bud Wilkinson, he was also able to convince his best friend, Jerry Tubbs, a future All-American and pro player with the Dallas Cowboys, to join him at OU. My father was not a super-star but he contributed to the team, not his own statistics. He learned the value of teamwork, hard work, determination and the mindset of never succumbing to defeat, but to rise and battle on. He valued his education even higher. While at Oklahoma his team never witnessed defeat. He is the undefeated. His greatest play came in the 1955 Orange Bowl. See it here at 1:19 into this YouTube video.
I do not know of any other man in my life that has the spirit he has. I do not have the same level of contentment that he displays. I have witnessed the sacrifice a man can and will make for his family. In his senior year at OU, his football career came to an end as he broke his leg in two places. Ironically, a fellow player broke his leg almost exactly in the same manner, in the same game. They threw a coin toss to see who would get surgery first. My dad lost this coin toss. He admits that he was glad it ended. He had been approached to play football for Green Bay for $6,000 per year. He could make $7,000 per year as a geologist. This should give you some perspective of the difference of our current times versus 1956. He is a father and a husband and taught me some of life’s greatest wisdom with respect to the adoration and loyalty for a wife. He is a modern day chivalrous knight. He gets the meaning of “love, honor and cherish until death do you part.” This is something rarely witnessed these days. He is the undefeated.
The main character in my trilogy “The Chosen One of Allivar” has a combination of qualities I see as truly noble and chivalrous. Just know the main character, Arimar, is the hero – the undefeated. I did not have to look far for the inspiration of my hero. In my mythology, I made family as the main theme. It is my hope that you see family differently upon the completion of the story. For when a family stands together beside a man of endearing qualities, it can never, ever, be defeated. Sadly, the men of that gallant stand are now passing from this world. Their stories must be passed down by their children and grandchildren and by fans who must never forget what it means to be a Sooner.
My first game to witness Sooner magic came in 1971, OU vs Nebraska – the game of the century. I was very young and I huddled with my sisters shivering on that cold, misty November day. I was hooked from that very moment. Because of my father I shook the hands of many of OU’s Saturday heroes. In 2005, the University presented to my father and surviving players with a national championship ring. You have never seen so many old men tear up. They even had an autograph session outside the stands the next day to pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of the 1955 National Champions. These men wondered why so many would stand in line. It is because the majority of people live ordinary lives, where adventure and victories are only lived through others. It gives us a sense of belonging. When we are in the stadiums cheering until we are hoarse, we do so to support the warriors of the gridiron fields. It is those moments when we are on the same heroic quest, playing a small part to victory. I am honored to play my part. I just hope current and future players truly understand the meaning of being a man and what doors playing football can open. Treasure it and do not take it for granted.
Thank you, Dad, for making that stand and passing your wisdom and legacy down to me. I have seen a hero and walked beside him. I call him father. You have and will remain The Undefeated.
Number 71 – C. Wayne Greenlee “Boomer Sooner”