Washington Post columnist George Will once said, "Sports serve society by providing vivid examples of excellence". For SMU, Doak Walker was that example of excellence. If someone were to ask who represents the ideal All-America player, one would only need to respond by uttering the name Doak Walker. He was the symbol of what it meant to be a football player in Texas and the image of the Southwest Conference. On September 27, 1948, Doak appeared on the cover of Life Magazine in one of the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.
The cover picture of Walker's issue of Life magazine features a photo of him dressed in SMU crimson red, posed against a penetrating blue sky. This image of Doak served as a wake up call for anyone who had not heard of his greatness. The previous year, Walker's sophomore season, he had led SMU to a Southwest Conference championship and their first trip to the Cotton Bowl. Then at the beginning of the 1948 season, just two days before the Life Magazine hit newsstands, he led the Mustangs to a 33-14 victory over Pittsburgh. By the end of the 1948 season, Walker had proven why he was the best player in college football and awarded the Heisman Trophy.
Gracing the covers of national magazines was something Walker became accustomed to. He appeared on 47 covers, including Life, Look, Sports Illustrated and Collier's. One time, Kyle Rote, Walker's teammate, saw a guy buying a football magazine at a newsstand. "Don't buy that one," Rote said. "It's not official. It doesn't have a picture of Doak Walker on the cover." Walker's fame garnered him nicknames such as "The Golden Boy of the Southwest Conference," "the Doaker" and "Mr. Football." He truly was a national phenomenon.
Exactly 50 years to the day after that issue of Life hit the stands, Doak Walker passed away from complications following a skiing accident. SMU lost the greatest player in school history. In life, Doak Walker epitomized leadership, sportsmanship, and academic and athletic achievement during his storied career at SMU in the late 1940's. In death, he remains a symbol of what true excellence is all about. Doak Walker's appearance on the cover of Life Magazine takes its place at No. 45 on our countdown of the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.a