John E. Hoover: As Cotton Bowl honors Roy Williams’ performance, his revelation about concussions is troubling

John E. Hoover: As Cotton Bowl honors Roy Williams’ performance, his revelation about concussions is troubling

Oklahoma’s Roy Williams during his Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame Induction, Tuesday, May 8, 2018. (PHOTO: Cotton Bowl)

Troubling news out of Dallas today.

As Roy Williams was inducted into the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Superman himself said he can’t recall where the game ranks for him because of “so many damn concussions.”

That’s what Williams said Tuesday to the Austin American-Statesman’s Brian Davis following his enshrinement in a class that included college football luminaries like Texas A&M linebacker Quentin Coryatt, Penn State linebacker Wallace Triplett, Texas running back Ricky Williams and coaches Houston Nutt and John Robinson.

Roy Williams is just 37 years old.

You know it’s getting serious when guys who played at the University of Oklahoma under Bob Stoops, guys who are just now out of their football prime, are having trouble with recall.

Williams told Davis he remembers the Sooners’ visit to the hospital to meet with sick kids. He also remembers the bowl gifts the Cotton Bowl gave out to its participants that year. But when asked if the Arkansas game was one of his best at OU — he had six tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks as the Sooners beat Arkansas 10-3 — Williams, the hard-hitting hybrid safety, said, “I don’t know. If I didn’t have so many damn concussions, I’d be able to tell you. That’s just the honest truth.”

The 6-foot, 222-pound Williams was a modern-day Jack Tatum, delivering pain and punishment on virtually every play. The NFL even outlawed horse-collar tackles because of him, informally naming the change the “Roy Williams Rule.”

Now, it seems, all those collisions have left an adverse impact on Williams’ post-football life.

Williams was also asked about a slightly more well-known game the Sooners played in the Cotton Bowl Stadium earlier that season: a 14-3 victory over Texas, in which Williams delivered his signature “Superman” play, flying over a blocker and knocking the ball out of quarterback Chris Simms’ hands and into the arms of OU linebacker Teddy Lehman, who scored the clinching touchdown in the final mintes.

“I’m never able to forget about that play, because everybody wants to talk about that play,” Williams said. “I actually just got back on social media, and when I posted that I was being inducted, people said, ‘You should have been inducted right after that game.’ They’re talking about the Texas game. People don’t know this is for the Arkansas game.

“That play will forever be in Oklahoma history, which is awesome. I would have never thought that I would be a part of OU history. I thought I would be just one of many guys who walked those halls and played ball there. I’m honestly just floored that I got the call to be a part of this.”

Last month, ahead of the NFL Draft, I asked Williams about his legacy at OU.

“I was just a young kid from Union City, California, that had an opportunity to play football and make it a career. That’s how I see it. I don’t think about legacy. I just look at it as I was able to live a dream that I had since I was a young kid. I was able to play football and enter the NFL the same way I went out. I was happy when I went in and I was happy when I went out. I was very fortunate to be able to play nine years.

“But as far as the whole legacy aspect, honestly, it boils down to common courtesy for me, the way I was raised. You treat people how you want to be treated. You keep your name clean when you’re in college, you keep your name clean when you’re a professional. Doing good for others, taking time out of your day just in service to other people — donating clothes to those less fortunate, or feeding the less fortunate. I mean, that’s all about a legacy.”

Williams was the eighth overall pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2002. At OU, he won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s best defensive back and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as college football’s best overall defender. He also finished seventh in the 2001 Heisman Trophy voting.

Williams donated $100,000 to the University of Oklahoma facility that now bears his name: the Roy Williams Strength and Speed Complex.

“To me, what everybody considers their legacy is different. Me, I wanted to donate back to my school, I wanted to give back to the less fortunate, I wanted to help single moms. Those are things that touched my heart.”


Franchise columnist John E. Hoover, previously co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew,” is the Franchise College Football Insider. Catch him on air every day in in Oklahoma City and Tulsa: Monday 12:15 p.m., Tuesday 3:30 p.m., Wednesday, 8:15 a.m., Thursday 10:15 a.m., and Friday 3:30 p.m. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. John also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his personal page at


From left: Houston Nutt (Arkansas and Ole Miss), Alison Triplett and Ayanna McConnell (Penn State), Roy Williams (Oklahoma), Ricky Williams (Texas), John Robinson (USC), Quentin Coryatt (Texas A&M). (PHOTO: Cotton Bowl)


(by Cotton Bowl staff)

Texas A&M linebacker Quentin Coryatt was fast, a fierce hitter, and one of the most respected defenders in the Southwest Conference. His sack of Florida State quarterback Casey Weldon for a safety in the 1992 Classic was sensational. The Seminoles may have won the game, 10-2, but it was Coryatt’s safety and 10 unassisted tackles that had everyone talking.

Coach Houston Nutt became the fourth of only six head coaches to guide two universities to the Cotton Bowl Classic. He led Arkansas to a 27-6 victory over rival Texas in the 2000 game, and then directed Ole Miss to back-to-back victories over Texas Tech in 2009 and Oklahoma State in 2010. In four Classic appearances, his teams were 3-1.

Coach John Robinson’s USC Trojans left their mark on the 1995 Cotton Bowl Classic with a decisive 55-14 victory over Texas Tech. USC rolled up 578 yards in total offense and erased five offensive records that day. Defensively, the Trojans were just as dominating. Under Robinson’s direction, USC recorded one of the most incredible team performances ever in the Classic.

Penn State halfback/linebacker Wallace Triplett made history in the 1948 Classic in more ways than one. He and teammate Dennie Hoggard broke down racial barriers in the state of Texas. And, on the football field, Triplett was spectacular. He reeled in a six-yard touchdown pass midway through the third quarter to tie SMU, 13-13.

Texas running back Ricky Williams rushed for 203 yards in the 1999 game to spark the Longhorns to a 38-11 victory over Mississippi State. The Heisman winner’s first touchdown came early in the second half when he broke loose up the middle and sailed 37 yards for the score. As he crossed the goal line, Williams struck the Heisman pose and the floodgates sprang open for Texas.

Oklahoma strong safety Roy Williams was dominating in the Sooners’ 10-3 victory over Arkansas in 2002. Williams’ collected six tackles for the game, five of them were unassisted. He made three tackles for -17 yards in losses, including two sacks for minus-eight yards. It was easy to see why Williams’ teammates called him Superman.

With the induction of The Class of 2018, the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame expands to 71 men and women who have enriched the legacy of the Classic. The first class was enshrined in the spring of 1998 and since then the event has become a spring-time tradition at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.


Hoover wrote for the Tulsa World for 24 years before joining The Franchise, where he's now co-host of "Further Review" on The Franchise Tulsa (weekdays 12-3, fm107.9/am1270) . In his time at the World, Hoover won numerous writing and reporting awards, including in 2011 National Beat Writer of the Year from the Associated Press Sports Editors for his work covering the Oklahoma Sooners. Hoover also covered Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Oral Roberts and the NFL as a beat writer. From 2012 to 2016, Hoover was the World's lead sports columnist. As a columnist, Hoover won national awards in 2012 and 2014 from the National Athletic Trainers Association for reporting on sports medicine and in 2015 won first place in sports columns from the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists. After receiving a journalism degree from East Central University, Hoover worked at newspapers in Ada, Okmulgee, Tahlequah and Waynesville, Mo. He played football at Ada High School and grew up in North Pole, Alaska. Hoover and his family live in Broken Arrow.

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