Sooners mourn Red River Shootout legend

NORMAN, Okla. — While the South Siders reflect on the life of a coach who claimed three of four of Texas's national championships and posted a 167-47-4 overall record, those north of the Red River remember him as one of the players who set the foundation for the most successful program since World War II.

Legendary Sooner quarterback and defensive back Darrell K Royal, who passed away Wednesday morning, still holds OU all-time records for career interceptions (17) and the longest punt return of 96 yards in an Oct. 16, 1948 contest against Kansas State.

In 1949, his final season as a Sooner, he led the Crimson and Cream in passing with 509 yards while rushing for another 189. He completed 34-of-63 attempts with a lone interception that year en route to earning All-American honors.

Not only did he do it at quarterback and punt returner, though, but he also boomed the ball as a punter as well.

In fact, he hammered an 81-yarder against Oklahoma A&M, later renamed Oklahoma State, in 1948.

In that '48 season, in addition to his program-record 96-yard return, he also took one back 73 yards on his way to becoming an All-Big Seven selection.

Over four years, Royal guided the Sooners to a 37-5-2 record and victories in the Sugar Bowl twice and Gator Bowl before that.

He helped springboard the second-winningest coach in OU history (145) and one that would, by career's end, earn the Sooners three national titles: the late Bud Wilkinson.

Throughout the two's three seasons together, Wilkinson's first three in Norman, they teamed up to compile a 29-2-2 mark.

Wilkinson finished with an astounding .826 winning percentage, the second-best all-time for OU next to Barry Switzer, and Royal was no doubt a huge part of that.

"Coach Royal will always have a special place in the hearts of Sooners' fans as an unbelievably talented player," said current OU head coach Bob Stoops.

After posting huge numbers and leaving his lasting impact on the program that has recorded a nation-best 584 wins in the modern era, dating back to Royal's first season in 1946, he became a 20th-round draft pick in 1950.

The New York Bulldogs selected him there before he eventually went on to become a legendary coaching figure starting seven years later at Texas.

"From a coaching perspective, I have great admiration for his many accomplishments, his great players and his championship teams, and especially appreciate the fact that he never suffered a losing season in 23 seasons as a head coach," Stoops said.

But perhaps even more than his actions as a player or coach on the field, he left his biggest mark as an icon on both the Sooner and Longhorn campuses.

"The University of Oklahoma joins the rest of the nation in celebrating the life's work of Darrell Royal," said OU vice president for intercollegiate athletics and director of athletics, Joe Castiglione. "We've truly lost an icon--a champion, an innovator and an educator. As an All-America player at the University of Oklahoma, he represented his home state with a unique versatility that we still celebrate today.

"Without question, he left an even more indelible mark on collegiate athletics during his distinguished coaching and administrative tenure at the University of Texas, where he made an immeasurable impact on the University and the countless individuals he touched."

The Crimson and Cream and Burnt Orange can come together on this day remembering a legend, one that impacted both schools in his own right.

--For the Texas perspective, read here--

Follow me at twitter.com/joeyhelmer10 or facebook.com/joeyhelmer.

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