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Doak Walker - Pride of Dallas and Detroit

Updated on July 22, 2014

Doak Walker is an American Icon. He has a classic name, a classic face and a classic background. Born Ewell Doak Walker, Jr. in Dallas, Texas to N. Dallas High football coach Ewell Doak Walker, Sr. he was taught from an early age to be a good person as well as a good athlete.

The Walkers lived close by the SMU Owenby football stadium and father and son would attend games. Later, Doak would sell popcorn and peanuts during the games. As a kid playing football in grade school Doak wore number 37, a number that would be retired by SMU and the Detroit Lions in honor of Doak.

Doak attended high school at Highland Park High along with the great Bobby Layne where Doak would excel in football, baseball, basketball, swimming and track.

After graduating high school, Doak joined the Merchant Marines in early 1945, but was discharged early that same year. Along with Bobby Layne he attended an SMU football game where he met with his former high school coach Rusty Russell who now coached the SMU backfield. Doak was heading for the University of Texas to join his buddy Layne, but after talking with Russell he decided to attend SMU. The following week Doak played against his former high school teammate who was quarterback for the Longhorns.

Even though he started late in the season without spring training, or any knowledge of the plays and missed 4 games in September Doak made All-Southwest Conference and would go on to make All-SWC all four years at SMU as did his friend Layne at Texas.

However, unlike Layne, Doak was drafted into the army in 1946 and returned in 1947 to resume his studies and sports. Along with All-SWC and All-American awards, he won the Maxwell Award his sophomore year given to the collegiate player of the year. He followed that his junior year by again earning All-SWC and All-American and the Heisman Trophy considered the most prestigeous award in college football. He was the very first junior to receive the award. That year, he was on the cover of Life Magazine.

He would be injured in his senior year and play in only half of the games, but still would earn his fourth All-SWC award and his third All-American award. Undoubtedly, if not injured Doak would have been the first to win two Heisman trophies.

There were so many people that wanted to watch Doak play that SMU had to move their games to the Cotton Bowl which became known as "The House That Doak Built". Doak was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1959.

Doak would be named #4 on ESPN's 25 Greatest Players of all time.

The New York Bulldogs drafted Doak with the 3rd pick in the 1st round and then traded him to the Detroit Lions where he would play his short career of six years from 1950-1955. He was named Rookie of the Year in 1950 and earned All-Pro and his first trip to the Pro Bowl. He led the NFL in scoring his rookie year and would do so one other time. He would make All-Pro 4 of his 6 years and along with Bobby Layne take Detroit to three division titles and two NFL championships in 1952 and 1953. He would go to the Pro Bowl 5 times. As in college, he was an outstanding kicker, field goal kicker, extra point kicker, runner, receiver, passer and punt and kick off return man. He did it all.

Doak walked away from football after just six years in the NFL.

“I’d been on three division champions, two world champions, I’d been to five Pro Bowls, I’d been All-Pro four times,” he told the Detroit News’s Jerry Green in 1986. “What else was there to do?”

Doak met Skeeter' Werner, Olympic skii champion, when taking skiing lessons from her in Colorado. They would marry and live in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Doak became passionate about skiing.

My evening with Doak

One night around midnight I was walking through the airport in Dallas and spotted this man sitting all alone in one of those arrival and departure sections. It was Doak Walker! There weren't a whole lot of people in the terminal that late night, but the ones walking by never gave Doak a second look. Nobody recognized him right here in Dallas where he was everybody's hero while playing at SMU.

I just could not pass up this opportunity. I walked over and introduced myself. He seemed as though he was glad that someone recognized him. I began by telling him that my mom waited on him when she was in her mid 20's working as a car hop in Dallas. That set the tone for our conversation. I tried my best to talk about his football days, but all he wanted to talk about was skiing. Towards the end of our conversation Doak said, "If I had it to do all over again I would have never played football. I would have been a skiier."

Unfortunately, Doak lost his life while skiing in Steamboat Springs in 1998. Doak, I am so glad you did play football. There has never been another like you.

AWARDS

ALL-SOUTHWEST CONFERENCE 4-TIMES

MAXWELL AWARD SOPHOMORE

HEISMAN TROPHY JUNIOR

ALL-AMERICAN 3-TIMES

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR IN NFL 1950

LED NFL IN SCORING 2-TIMES

ALL-PRO 4-TIMES

PRO BOWL 5-TIMES

COLLEGE HALL OF FAME

NFL HALL OF FAME

#4 ON ESPN LIST "GREATEST COLLEGIATE PLAYERS OF ALL TIME"

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