University of Oklahoma

Vessels won Oklahoma's first Heisman while rushing for over 1,000 yards, the first player to win the trophy while topping that yardage mark. He is also the first T-formation running back to win.

Heisman Winner

Billy Vessels

RB | Senior | University of Oklahoma

Vessels won Oklahoma’s first Heisman while rushing for over 1,000 yards, the first player to win the trophy while topping that yardage mark. He is also the first T-formation running back to win the Heisman.

Born in Cleveland, Okla., Vessels hitchhiked 50 miles on football Saturdays to see Oklahoma A&M play in Stillwater, and he sometimes served as the team’s water boy. But by the time Vessels was a high school football star, the Oklahoma program was thriving in Norman under Bud Wilkinson, and he became a Sooner.

Vessels ran for 870 yards and scored 15 touchdowns as a sophomore in 1950 on a consensus national championship team. He missed six games with a broken leg as a junior, then emerged as the nation’s top player as a senior.

The 6-foot, 190-pound Vessels might have won the Heisman based on his huge game against Notre Dame in November. The game was telecast nationally and was broadcast on radio by Mel Allen. Vessels ran for 195 yards on 17 carries and scored on a pass reception and two long runs, but he also fumbled late in the game at the Notre Dame 20. Notre Dame, a heavy underdog, won by 27-21, handing Oklahoma its only loss of the season, but Vessels’s performance brought him national acclaim.

That year, he ran for 1,072 yards and 18 touchdowns, the most rushing yards by a Heisman winner until Mike Garrett ran for 1,440 in 1965. He won the Heisman over Jack Scarbath of Maryland.

Vessels was the No. 1 draft pick of the Baltimore Colts in 1953. But he accepted an offer from the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian league. He won the Schenley Award as Canada’s top pro player in his rookie year, then entered the Army, where he played football, and he finally joined the Colts in 1956. He ran for three touchdowns in a rout of the Los Angeles Rams but was hampered by injuries and retired after that season. Vessels moved to South Florida in the late 1950’s, worked as a real estate executive, bred horses and served in the 1980’s as president of the National Association of State Racing Commissioners and director of the Florida agency regulating parimutuel wagering.

He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1974.

More Articles About Billy Vessels

Heisman Voting Results

Number of electors: 1222 - Announced: November 25, 1952.

  Player Class Position School 1st2nd3rd Total Points
1Billy VesselsSRRBOklahoma989149525
2Jack ScarbathSRQBMaryland705743367
3Paul GielJRRBMinnesota763825329
4Donn MoomawSRLBUCLA543231257
5John LattnerJRHBNotre Dame354558253
6Paul CameronJRHBUCLA403528218
7Jim SearsSRHBUSC382117173
8Don McAuliffeSRHBMichigan State262928164
9Don HeinrichSRQBWashington192840153
10Tom CatlinSRCOklahoma252623150

Three points are awarded for first place on a ballot, with two points for second place and one point for third place.

Heisman Voting By Region

At this time, Heisman voters are spread out across five regions.

South

  Player
1Jack Scarbath
2Billy Vessels
3John Lattner
4Tom Catlin
5Paul Giel

East

  Player
1Billy Vessels
2Jack Scarbath
3John Lattner
4Donn Moonmaw
5Paul Giel

Midwest

  Player
1Paul Giel
2Billy Vessels
3John Lattner
4Tom Catlin
5Jack Scarbath

Southwest

  Player
1Billy Vessels
2Tom Catlin
3Jack Scarbath
4Donn Moonmaw
5John Lattner

Far West

  Player
1Donn Moomaw
2Billy Vessels
3Jack Scarbath
4John Lattner
5Paul Giel

Statistics

Bill Vessels’ 1952 Passing Stats, Game by Game

Date Opponent Result Att Comp Pct. Yds YPA TD INT Rating Total Offense YPP
9/27/52 at Colorado T 21-21 3 1 33.3 37 12.3 0 0 138.93 147 6.4
10/4/52 Pittsburgh W 49-20 1 1 100.0 17 17.0 0 0 242.80 67 5.2
10/11/52 + #10 Texas W 49-20 0 0 0.00 0 0 0 0 0.00 106 7.1
10/18/52 at Kansas W 42-20 3 2 66.6 76 25.3 0 0 279.47 181 10.1
10/25/52 Kansas State W 49-6 2 1 50.0 22 11.0 0 1 42.40 161 9.5
11/1/52 at Iowa State W 41-0 2 1 50.0 40 20.0 1 1 283.00 147 11.3
11/8/52 at #3 Notre Dame L 21-27 5 0 0.0 0 0.0 0 0 0.00 195 8.9
11/15/52 Missouri W 47-7 2 1 50.0 17 8.5 1 0 286.40 69 4.1
11/22/52 Nebraska W 34-13 0 0 0.0 0 0.0 0 0 0.00 95 4.8
11/29/52 at Oklahoma State W 54-7 2 0 0.0 0 0.0 0 1 -100.00 112 5.3
Heisman Stats AP #4 8-1-1 20 7 35.0 209 10.45 2 3 125.78 1,280 7.1

 

Billy Vessels’ Heisman Year Statistics

Date Opponent Result Att Yds Avg. TDs Rec Yds Avg TDs PR Yds Avg. TDs KOR Yds Avg. TDs Plays APY YPP Total TDs
9/27/52 at Colorado T 21-21 21 110 5.24 2 0 0 0.00 0 1 8 8.00 0 3 31 10.33 0 25 149 5.6 2
10/4/52 Pittsburgh W 49-20 12 50 4.17 0 0 0 0.00 0 1 48 48.00 0 3 59 19.67 0 16 157 9.8 0
10/11/52 + #10 Texas W 49-20 15 106 7.07 2 0 0 0.00 0 0 0 0.00 0 0 0 0.00 0 15 106 7.1 2
10/18/52 at Kansas W 42-20 15 105 7.00 2 1 32 32.00 0 0 0 0.00 0 0 0 0.00 0 16 137 8.6 2
10/25/52 Kansas State W 49-6 15 139 9.27 2 0 0 0.00 0 1 20 20.00 0 0 0 0.00 0 16 159 9.9 2
11/1/52 at Iowa State W 41-0 12 107 8.92 2 1 32 32.00 0 1 0 0.00 0 0 0 0.00 0 13 139 10.7 2
11/8/52 at #3 Notre Dame L 21-27 17 195 11.47 2 1 28 28.00 1 1 5 5.00 0 1 5 5.00 0 21 233* 11.1 3
11/15/52 Missouri W 47-7 15 52 3.47 0 1 21 21.00 0 0 0 0.00 0 2 50 25.00 0 20 133# 6.7 0
11/22/52 Nebraska W 34-13 20 95 4.80 3 2 28 14.00 0 0 0 0.00 0 0 0 0.00 0 22 123 5.6 3
11/29/52 at Oklahoma State W 54-7 19 112 5.89 2 1 24 24.00 0 1 39 0.00 0 0 0 0.00 0 22 175 8.0 2
Heisman Stats AP #4 8-1-1 161 1072 6.66 17 7 165 23.57 1 6 120 20.00 0 9 145 16.11 0 186 1512^ 8.1 18

(+) Neutral Site
(*) Includes 1 interception for 0 yards against Notre Dame
(#) Includes 2 interceptions for 10 yards against Missouri
(^) Includes 3 interceptions for 10 yards on the season

Media

Billy Vessels - 1952 Heisman Trophy Winner
Billy Vessels - 1952 Heisman Trophy Winner
Billy Vessels - 1952 Heisman Trophy Winner
Billy Vessels - 1952 Heisman Trophy Winner
Billy Vessels - 1952 Heisman Trophy Winner
Billy Vessels - 1952 Heisman Trophy Winner