NORMAN, Okla. -- As a child, Steve Davis dreamed of playing for Oklahoma and even tucked away a picture of the Sooners' quarterback he idolized in his dresser drawer.
Decades later, he is among the standard-bearers for the position at one of college football's most storied programs. Davis, who started every game during Barry Switzer's first three seasons as head coach and won national championships in 1974 and 1975, died Sunday in a plane crash in South Bend, Ind. He was 60.
Davis compiled a remarkable 32-1-1 record in three years as the Sooners' starter. The Sooners went 11-0 in 1974, then won the national title again the following year after going 11-1.
It was a storybook career for Davis, who finished with one of the best records for a starting quarterback in the sport's history after a humble beginning at Oklahoma. He grew up in Sallisaw in the eastern part of the state and developed a love for the Sooners. In an interview with The Oklahoman newspaper last year, he described how he hid a picture from an Oklahoma football brochure in his top dresser drawer.
"It was a shot into the huddle, and there was Bobby Warmack, who was my idol. He had that eye-black, and the double chin strap and the towel out of the front of his pants," Davis told the paper. "I took that picture, and I took a big, black magic marker and wrote 'WHEN?' " The day Davis made his first start in the 1973 season opener, he said, his mother took the picture and wrote on it: "TONIGHT." Oklahoma beat Baylor in the opener, then tied powerhouse Southern Cal in the second game. After that, Davis and the Sooners ran off 28 straight victories.
"I will never get away from the fact that I was an Oklahoma quarterback. I will never get away from the fact that I only lost one game," Davis said in the 2008 book "The Die-Hard Fan's Guide to Sooner Football." "All of those things are a part of my legacy and my history. I am very thankful for what happened. I don't know that I would trade my career for any other quarterback that has ever played at OU." Switzer recounted how Davis wasn't highly regarded as a high school player and was recruited simply as an athlete before he caught the coach's eye during a freshman game, back when first-year players were ineligible to play. Switzer turned to offensive coordinator Galen Hall and remarked that he might have found a quarterback.
"Steve was surrounded by great talent on those teams, but he was truly an exceptional leader," Switzer said. "I was proud of him. The entire state of Oklahoma was proud of him. We still are."
Davis worked as a television sports commentator after his career was over, including game day telecasts for Sooners games last season.
Davis' parents, Jim and Patsy Davis of Sallisaw, said their son loved to fly and had earned a pilot's license. They described Wes Caves, 58, who also died in the crash, as a friend of Davis. Two passengers survived. Davis and Caves both lived in Tulsa.
"We extend our sympathies to Steve's family and others whose lives he touched," Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said.
A product of a different era, Davis hardly had to throw a pass to be the star quarterback in Oklahoma's dominant wishbone offense. He completed just 40 percent of his passes during his career for 2,034 yards, but only attempted about six per game during Oklahoma's back-to-back championship seasons.
"This is a tragic loss," Switzer said. "Steve was a tremendous role model for student-athletes everywhere. He was a minister who traveled across the country inspiring thousands with his message, his words and his lifestyle."