Greats Memorialize Mildren

Jack Mildren was one of the greatest Sooners on the football field and off. It was his great attitude towards the game and life in general that allowed so many players and coaches to feel such a close connection with him. In this feature OU legends and former OU rivals memorialize Mildren's life.

Johnny Rodgers, Nebraska All-American wide receiver, 1972 Heisman Trophy winner:

"I knew Jack was sick because I interviewed him for my book. He was a tremendous player and a great man. He had great physical abilities and great mental abilities. He was one of the first great option quarterbacks in the country, and we knew he could beat you in so many different ways. In 1971, in the Game of the Century, he killed us with the pass and did absolutely everything he could to beat us.

"He had such great character, and that's what helped him become one of Oklahoma's finest and so successful in the political world. Nebraska and Oklahoma compete with class and mutual respect. To me, that's what sports should be – great competition on the field and great cooperation off the field.

"There always has been and always will be a bond between Nebraska and Oklahoma because both of us pushed each other to greater heights than either one of us could have reached by ourselves. We're great rivals, but we're also great friends. We even root for each other because we know we're in this elite group together. That's why Eric Crouch, Mike Rozier and I were in Oklahoma last weekend to help support Tulsa Sports Charities.

"My heart goes out to Jack Mildren's family and to the entire Oklahoma family. I just want them to know we feel a part of their family, too, and we mourn their loss."

Former OU head football coach Barry Switzer:

 "Jack's conduct through his illness was one of the most courageous things I've ever witnessed.  The way he lived his last years was a testament to the kind of man Jack Mildren was.  Of course, Jack was the father of the wishbone.  He came to us at the perfect time.  We could not have accomplished the things we did without him.  He helped create the greatest rushing machine in college football.  What a complete player, a complete person.  He was a runner, a passer and a great leader.  We recruited a lot of superstars out of the state of Texas and Jack was the first one."

OU head football coach Bob Stoops:

 "First and foremost, we send our deepest sympathies to Jack's family.  For all that he represented to this university and this state, he meant so much more to his loved ones.  We want them to know that we are close to them at this difficult time.  From the perspective of our football program, Jack was a role model for every young man who wears the Sooner uniform.  He was gifted both athletically and intellectually yet was defined by his toughness and fortitude. He found his personal stardom by placing the team first and viewed his academic responsibilities as another opportunity to excel.  After graduation he achieved his goals, while remaining loyal to his family and serving others.  I don't know how any man could aspire for much more.  We will miss him tremendously."

Tom Osborne, former Nebraska head football coach and now athletic director:

"Jack Mildren represented the best of qualities in a student athlete. He had talent, drive and integrity and showed great sportsmanship, on and off the field.  He played some of his best games against us, and we had nothing but respect for the way he competed and represented himself and his university.

"As a quarterback coach, I spent a lot of time analyzing his decision-making in the film room, and I can understand why he was an Academic All-American and later inducted into the Academic All-America Hall of Fame. I believe Jack was the first Oklahoma player to receive a post-graduate scholarship. To me, his emphasis on academics says a lot about the way he prioritized his life, and it helps explain why he was so successful after football.

"I have always respected Oklahoma football, and it's because of leaders like Jack Mildren. I want his family and the Oklahoma athletic family to know that they will be in our thoughts and prayers this weekend."

Former OU player Joe Washington:

"You know, it's funny that I never played with Jack, but it always felt like I did.  I watched him coming up as a high school player and just always felt a kinship with him.  I always viewed Jack as sort of a swashbuckler, that daring guy swinging from the ship.  He had that chin strap buttoned, but never fitted.  I knew he snapped it because those were the rules, but by wearing it loose he made a statement.  If it hadn't been a rule, he probably wouldn't have worn a chin strap.  He was the kind of guy you'd want to be in a fox hole with.  He fought to the end, and he approached everything in his life that way.  There is always great solace in knowing guys like him are around.  There is a comfort in knowing the members of our family.   He was always the guy in charge.  A lot of guys ran the wishbone, but they didn't have the pizzazz Jack had.  He is respected as one of our foremost winners and he is one of those ghosts on the wall.  When I was playing, his picture was on the wall and you knew that he was watching to make sure you were doing things the right way."

Former OU player Greg Pruitt:

 "He was the architect of what we did in the wishbone and he set the bar of what Oklahoma expected in a wishbone quarterback.  There were guys that were faster and more elusive than Jack, but there were none that were better at running the offense.  On most offenses, the toughest guy is the fullback or a lineman, but on our team I think the toughest guy was Jack.  We called timeouts some times just so he could get his head cleared.  He would do anything to make a play.  Jack demanded that you everyone else approach the game the same way.  There has been a tradition at OU that you are a great football player on the field and a gentleman off the field.  That's what Jack represented.  I was shocked when I heard (Jack had passed), but I knew he had an uphill battle.  I know he had no regrets.  God doesn't make mistakes.  We had him for a while.  Maybe God was ready to have him now."


Jack Mildren (OU Athletics Department Photo)

Jack Mildren, Barry Switzer & Roy Bell (OU Athletics Department Photo)

Jack Mildren (OU Athletics Department Photo)

Jack Mildren (11) option to Greg Pruitt (30) vs. Kansas, 1971 (OU Athletics Department Photo)

Joe Castiglione, Jack Mildren & Joe Washington (OU Athletics Department Photo)

Jack Mildren, 1949-2008 (OU Athletics Department Photo)

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