Doak Walker epitomized leadership, sportsmanship, and academic and athletic achievement during his storied career at SMU from 1945 through 1949. He graced the covers of numerous national magazines becoming a national phenomenon. He was a versatile player who could run, pass, catch, punt, kick extra points, and return punts and kickoffs. He earned All-America honors three times, from 1947-49, as well as won the Maxwell Award in 1947. The pinnacle of his success came in 1948 as he became the first junior to win the Heisman Trophy in one of the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.
During that 1948 season, Walker led the Mustangs to an 8-1-1 record and a No. 10 ranking in the country. By the end of the season, the Mustangs had claimed their second straight Southwest Conference title and knocked off Norm Van Brocklin and Oregon in the Cotton Bowl. The team was as talented as any in the country, but Walker stood out above the rest.
That season, Walker ran 108 times for 532 yards and eight touchdowns, completed 26 of 46 passes for 304 yards and five touchdowns, and caught 15 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball, he intercepted three passes and ran them back for 75 yards. As a special teams player, Walker returned 10 punts for 169 yards and a touchdown, returned five kickoffs for 161 yards, kicked 22 of 29 extra points, and averaged 42.1 yards per punt in 35 attempts which was tops in the SWC and fifth in the nation. He also led the SWC and was sixth in the country in scoring with 88 points. In the end, fans and sportswriters agreed that no player in the country had done more for his team than Walker had for SMU.
For the second year in a row, Walker was named All-SWC and unanimous All-America. He was the Sporting News Player of the Year, the Sport Magazine football honoree, and he would have collected another Maxwell Award except that previous winners were not allowed to repeat. Instead, the club decided that since Walker could not receive the award, no one would win it in 1948. And finally, Walker became the first and only Heisman Trophy winner in school history.
Walker accepted his Heisman in New York City on December 8th, 1948, with 22 of his close family and friends on hand. A humble man, Walker credited his coach and teammates for all of his success. At no time during his brief acceptance speech did Walker talk about his accomplishments or football abilities. Rather, Walker talked about his love for the game and love for SMU.
Following his legendary time at SMU, Walker went onto a Hall of Fame career with the Detroit Lions in the NFL. Then, some forty years following his final collegiate game, an award was created in his honor. The Doak Walker Award was created in 1989 to recognize the nation's premier running back for his accomplishments on the field, achievement in the classroom and citizenship in the community. It is the only major collegiate football award that requires all candidates to be in good academic standing and on schedule to graduate within one year of other students of the same classification.
SMU recognizes Walker as the greatest player to ever put on the Mustang uniform. The University is proud to have a statue in his honor placed outside of Ford Stadium in Doak Walker Plaza. Doak Walker set the standard for what an athlete should be. He was a great football player and an even better person. There has never been another player like Doak Walker and there probably never will be. Walker's winning the only Heisman Trophy in school history takes its place as one of the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.