Top 10 Best Oklahoma College Football Players of All Time

Top 10 Best Oklahoma College Football Players of All Time

One of the most storied programs in college football history are the Oklahoma Sooners. The Sooners have been playing since 1895, and in that time, they have won seven national titles. To have all this success, they have had some outstanding players. Find information about the ten greatest players in program history below.

Who Are the Best University of Oklahoma Football Players of All Time?

  1. Billy Sims
  2. Lee Roy Selmon
  3. Baker Mayfield
  4. Billy Vessels
  5. Adrian Peterson
  6. Roy Williams
  7. Tommy McDonald
  8. Brian Bosworth
  9. Joe Washington
  10. Sam Bradford

1. Billy Sims

  • Two All-American selections (1978, 1979)
  • 1978 Davey O’Brien Award winner
  • 1978 Heisman Trophy winner

One of the best running backs in college football history, Billy Sims deserves the honor of greatest Oklahoma football player of all time. Sims was a star for the Sooners in the late 1970s from 1975 to 1979. In five years (he obtained a redshirt after his sophomore season was cut short due to injury), he made two All-American teams (1978, 1979), won the 1978 Davey O’Brien Award, and was named the 1978 UPI Player of the Year award. Additionally, he won the 1978 Heisman Trophy and was the runner-up in 1979. 

On the Sooners all-time rushing list, Sims ranks fifth in rushing yards (3,820) and fourth in rushing touchdowns (48) in school history. While he was at the school, Oklahoma went 52-7 and won four Bowl games in his five years. In 1975, they were named the National Champions after winning the Orange Bowl. Once his time at Oklahoma was up, Sims went on to be the first overall pick in the 1980 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions.

2. Lee Roy Selmon

  • 1975 Outland Trophy Winner
  • 1975 Lombardi Award Winner
  • Two All-American Selections (1974, 1975)

Possibly the most feared defender in the history of college football was Lee Roy Selmon. Selmon played defensive tackle at Oklahoma for four years from 1972 to 1975. In his senior season, he won the Outland Trophy, the Lombardi Award, and the UPI Lineman of the Year award. He also was named an All-American in 1974 and 1975. 

Throughout his career, Selmon racked up 325 total tackles, 40 sacks, and eight additional tackles for loss. His 40 sacks are the most in Oklahoma history. Oklahoma was the best team in the country throughout Selmon’s time there, winning back-to-back national championships in 1974 and 1975, as well as posting an overall record of 42-2. Selmon went on to be the number one overall pick in the 1976 NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He is a member of both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame. 

3. Baker Mayfield

The best quarterback in Oklahoma history is certainly Baker Mayfield. After playing his freshman year at Texas Tech in 2013, Mayfield transferred to Oklahoma, sat out a year, and then played the final three years of his career in Norman from 2015-2017. In three years, he won two Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year Awards (2015, 2017), made two All-American teams (2015, 2017), was a three-time All-Big 12 team member (2015-2017), and was a two-time Kellen Moore Award winner (2015, 2016) amongst others. He also won the 2017 Heisman Trophy after finishing fourth and third in 2015 and 2016, respectively. 

When it comes to his all-time passing ranks, Mayfield ranks second in passing yards (12,292) and passing touchdowns (119) in program history. In three years with Mayfield leading the way, Oklahoma went 34-6, made the College Football Playoff in 2015 and 2017, and won the 2016 Sugar Bowl. Mayfield was then drafted number one overall by the Cleveland Browns in 2018, and he still plays in the NFL today. 

4. Billy Vessels

  • 1952 All-American selection
  • 1952 UPI Player of the Year winner
  • 1952 Heisman Trophy winner

One of the earliest stars in Oklahoma history was Billy Vessels. Vessels played running back for the Sooners for three seasons in the early 1950s (1950-1952). In his senior season in 1952, he was named an All-American, won the UPI Player of the Year award, and won the Heisman Trophy. He also led Oklahoma to an overall record of 26-4 during his time there, which included an appearance in the 1950 Sugar Bowl.

Despite only playing three seasons due to freshman being ineligible at the time, Vessels still ranks 21st in rushing yards (2,084) and is tied for 13th in rushing touchdowns (31) in team history. In 1953, Vessels was taken with the number two overall pick in the NFL draft. While he did not have much of an NFL career, he did have a nice career in the Canadian Football League (CFL). He was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player in 1953.

5. Adrian Peterson

  • 2004 Big 12 Freshman Player of the Year
  • Three All-Big 12 selections (2004-2006)
  • 2004 All-American selection

Another dominating running back, Adrian Peterson rounds out the first half of this list. Peterson played three years with the Sooners from 2004 to 2006 before leaving for the NFL after his junior season. He made an All-Big 12 team all three years, won the 2004 Big Freshman of the Year Award, and was named an All-American in 2004 when he ran for over 1,900 yards and scored fifteen touchdowns.

Peterson’s career at Oklahoma currently has him ranked number two in rushing yards (4,041) and number seven in rushing touchdowns (41). From 2004 to 2006, the Sooners went 31-8 and made a Bowl game all three years, including a victory in the 2005 Holiday Bowl. After his college career, the Minnesota Vikings took Peterson with the seventh overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft. He would go on to have a Hall of Fame-worthy, 15-year career in the NFL.

6. Roy Williams

The second defender on the list is Roy Williams. A three-year member of the Sooners prior to heading off to the NFL, Williams was on Oklahoma from 1999-2001. In that time, he made two All-Big 12 teams, was named the 2001 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, won the 2001 Jack Tatum Award, and won the 2001 Jim Thorpe Award, amongst others. He also registered a seventh-place finish in the 2001 Heisman voting, something that is not common for defensive backs.

In 2001, Williams set a school record for tackles for loss by a defensive back, registering 12 of them. During the three years while Williams was on the roster, Oklahoma went 31-7, including a perfect 13-0 record in 2000 when they took home the National Championship. In 2002, he was taken with the eighth overall pick in the NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys. 

7. Tommy McDonald

  • 1956 Maxwell Award winner
  • Two All-American selections (1955, 1956)
  • Two All-Big Seven selections (1955, 1956)

Another 1950s college star for the Sooners was Tommy McDonald. McDonald played three years in Norman from 1954 to 1956 after not being eligible his freshman year like all freshmen at the time. He was selected to two All-American teams (1955, 1956) and two All-Big Seven teams (1955, 1956) and won the 1956 Maxwell Award. 

Although he was only able to play three years, McDonald still comes in at number 36 in rushing yards with 1,696 and 15th in rushing touchdowns with 29. A two-time national champion, McDonald was a part of Sonner championship teams in 1955 and 1956, never losing a game in these years with the team (31-0). McDonald was eventually taken by the Philadelphia Eagles with a third-round pick in the 1957 NFL draft. He went on to win an NFL championship with them (prior to the Super Bowl ERA) in 1960 and be inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. 

8. Brian Bosworth

  • Two Butkus Awards (1985, 1986)
  • Two All-American Selections (1985, 1986)
  • Three All-Big Eight Team Selections (1984-1986)

The third and final defensive player on this list is Brian Bosworth. Bosworth played three years at linebacker for the Sooners from 1984-1986. He won two Butkus Awards (1985, 1986), two All-American teams (1985, 1986), and three All-Big Eight teams (1984-1986). He also helped the Sooners win the National title in 1985.

Throughout his career, Bosworth racked up the seventh most tackles in Sooner history with 413. His 22 in a 1986 game against Miami are the fourth most in school history as well. With Bosworth leading the defense, Oklahoma went 31-4 from 1984 to 1986, including the 1985 National Championship and a victory in the 1986 Orange Bowl. In the 1987 Supplemental NFL draft, the Seattle Seahawks took Bosworth with the number one overall pick. He did not have much of an NFL career, but he is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, earning the honor in 2015.

9. Joe Washington

  • Two-time First Team All-American selection (1974, 1975)
  • 1973 Third Team All-American selection
  • Two Top-5 Heisman Trophy finishes (1974, 1975)

The final great running back and the penultimate player on this list is Joe Washington. Washington was a four-year player for the Sooners from 1972 to 1975. He would go on to be named an All-American in his final three seasons (1973-1976) and a first Team All-American his final two seasons in 1974 and 1975. He also had back-to-back top-five Heisman finishes in 1974 and 1975.

As for his numbers, Washington currently has the third most rushing yards (3,995) and the 14th most rushing touchdowns (30) in Sooner history. Another two-time national champion, Washington helped the Sooners win back-to-back national titles in 1974 and 1975. Overall, the team was 43-2 when Washington was on the team, with an additional Bowl game victory in the 1972 Sugar Bowl along with the championships. Following his college career, Washington was the fourth overall pick in the 1976 NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers. 

10. Sam Bradford

  • 2008 All-American selection
  • 2008 Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year
  • 2008 Heisman Trophy winner

The second quarterback and the final player to make the cut here is Sam Bradford. Bradford played three seasons at Oklahoma from 2007-2009 before leaving for the NFL, although his junior season in 2009 was limited to just three games due to injury. His best year was 2008, when he was an All-American and won the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, the Davey O’Brien Award, and the Heisman Trophy, amongst others. He likely would have had a similar year in 2009 had he not gotten hurt.

Despite only playing for two full seasons, Bradford still comes in third in both passing yards (8,403) and passing touchdowns (88) in team history. In 2007 and 2008, Oklahoma went a combined 23-5, although they were defeated in the Fiesta Bowl in 2007 and the BCS National Championship Game in 2008. With Bradford on the sidelines in 2009 for most of the season, the team went 8-5 and won the Sun Bowl. He went on to be the number one overall pick In the 2010 NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams.

Honorable Mentions

While the ten players listed below did not quite make the top ten, they still deserve some recognition as honorable mentions. They are listed in alphabetical order by last name.

  • Mark Andrews
  • Ryan Broyles
  • Tony Casillas
  • Rickey Dixon
  • Josh Heupel
  • Keith Jackson
  • Kyler Murray
  • Samaje Perine
  • Rod Shoate
  • Jason White


Who is the best Oklahoma quarterback of all time?

One of the more recent stars at Oklahoma, Baker Mayfield is the best quarterback in Oklahoma history. In three years with the team from 2015-2017 after transferring from Texas Tech, Mayfield won two Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year Awards (2015, 2017), made two All-American teams (2015, 2017), was a three-time All-Big 12 team member (2015-2017), amongst others. He also won the 2017 Heisman Trophy after finishing fourth and third in 2015 and 2016, respectively. 

Who is the best Oklahoma wide receiver of all time?

While he did not quite make the top of all-time players, the best wide receiver in Oklahoma history is Ryan Broyles. Broyles was a four-year player with the Sooners in the late 2000s from 2008-2011. He was a two-time All-American in 2010 and 2011 and a two-time All-Big 12 team member those same two seasons. He also is the school’s all-time leader in both receiving yards with 4,586 and receiving touchdowns with 45.

Who is the best Oklahoma running back of all time?

Doubling as the greatest player in Sooner history, regardless of position, Billy Sims is the best running back in Oklahoma history. In five years, from 1975 to 1979 (he obtained a redshirt after his sophomore season), Sims made two All-American teams (1978, 1979), won the 1978 Davey O’Brien Award, and was named the 1978 UPI Player of the Year. He also was the 1978 Heisman Trophy winner and followed that up with a runner-up finish in 1979. 

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