As long as there is college football, fans will continuously debate what separates a good player from a great player. For instance, a good player might be someone who is named to an All-Conference Team and the All-America Team at least once in their career. If they are fortunate enough to be named to those teams more than once, then it might push them into the area of great players. But what if they are All-Conference four times? What if they are a three time All-America? Then they are simply known as the greatest. This feat was accomplished by the greatest player in SMU history, Doak Walker, for one of the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.
As a freshman, Walker joined the Mustangs midway through the 1945 season, helping the team finish with three straight shutout victories. Despite the shortened season, he was named to the All-Southwest Conference team. After a year in the army in 1946, Walker returned for his sophomore season in 1947. By season’s end he had won the Maxwell Award which was given to the best player the country. He was named All-SWC once again as well as an All-America. Then in 1948, as a junior, Walker received the highest individual honor a player can receive, the Heisman Trophy. Once more, he was All-SWC and All-America. In his senior season, despite all of his injuries and illnesses, Walker was again honored as an All-SWC player as well as All-America for the third time. Only one other SWC player, Hub Bechtol of Texas, was ever a three time All-America selection.
There was doubt as to whether Walker would be named an All-America following his senior year because he had been either idle or limited in playing time during half of the games. Showing great class and sportsmanship, Walker wrote a letter to Bill Fay, sports editor of Collier’s Magazine, asking not to be considered for the honor because “there are other All-America candidates more deserving of consideration.” Honoring Walker’s request, Fay left him off Collier’s team.
However, other All-America teams had no plans of leaving Walker off their lists. Grantland Rice of Look Magazine had good reason to include him. He wrote, “Walker had overcome injuries and illness to retain his rating as the best all-around player in the history of the Southwest. Still ailing, he came off the bench to kick the winning extra point in the Texas game. When he was in good health, he just about wrecked a fine Arkansas team. He was, as he has been for three seasons, the nearest thing in our time to George Gipp of Notre Dame.”
In his four-year career, Walker scored 288 points. No other player in school history had ever eclipsed the 200 point mark. In the games that he played, SMU compiled a record of 25-6-4, including a two-year run in 1947 and 1948 where the team went 18-1-3. Walker was simply a winner, and SMU was thankful for that.
There has never been and probably never will be another player like Doak Walker. He was a complete football player, doing everything from kicking field goals to intercepting passes. Football, today, has become so specialized by position that it seems unlikely a player will be able to match Walker’s versatility. Any player that comes close will automatically be considered one of the best players in the game.
Doak Walker set the standard when it came to playing football. A statue outside of Ford Stadium will forever stand in honor of the greatest player in the history of SMU. Walker’s being named to four All-SWC teams and three All-America teams places him in his rightful place among the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.