Oklahoma City, Oklahoma , United States
|| October 10, 1949
|Died||May 22, 2008
|Contributor||Not in Public Domain|
Feb 20, 2021 09:53pm
Married - Cancer - Methodist -
|Info||Larry Jack Mildren, Jr. |
Jack Mildren wasn't Sooner born. He wasn't Sooner bred. He didn't even hail from the Sooner State. But from 1970 through 1972, the feisty quarterback out of Abilene Cooper led one of the greatest revolutions in college football history -- all the time wearing the crimson and cream.
Mildren became a household name in Oklahoma after ushering in the wishbone era. And years later, he would parlay that fame into a political career in the state. "Godfather of the Wishbone," or "Lt. Gov. Mildren," November is always an exciting month for the Sooner legend.
Abilene started organized football in the fourth grade. And it had some interesting rules. If you could play in the first quarter, you couldn't play in the second quarter. The idea behind it — and it was a good idea — was to get more players participating. Because you never know. You never know what some undeveloped fourth-grader is going to be as a junior.
My dad was an ex-coach, so he'd heard all the excuses. I was lucky in that both my dad and mother thought that school was important as well. I couldn't blow it off. My dad would ask and, on those rare days when you didn't quite tell the complete truth, he'd figure it out. Then, you were in deep trouble. There was no foolin' my parents.
I didn't appreciate learning to run, but speed's an asset. There were summer track programs for youngsters. That was another advantage. The quickness is no longer there, trust me. But the quickness wasn't developed overnight either.
Barry Switzer and I are going down North First Street (in Abilene). Switzer's driving and he's talking about how I could be better. He stops the car — it's 7:30 at night or something like that — and gets out and it was about getting depth. North First is one of the major streets, and here are people coming around everywhere. So, he's getting depth on North First Street. We've always laughed about that through the years.
When people start attacking Oklahoma, as some who recruit do, it's a sad thing. I wonder why they're doing that. I wonder why they can't talk about what's good about their place only.
There was a time — when I was a player — that some folks thought Chuck Fairbanks ought to be fired. The ‘Chuck Chuck' signs and things like that, which I was partially responsible for. It wasn't all good. It wasn't all easy. It wasn't all successful. So, the lesson of being able to get back up off the ground is a good lesson for anybody. It's a good lesson for politicians. It's a good lesson for athletes.
We learned the wishbone from ground zero. In the middle of the season? You gotta' be kidding me. What coaching staff would make you do that? We learned it from films and watching somebody else. We knew nothing. Hello? You gotta' have some courage. People have never given the coaching staff enough credit for that decision. And their jobs were on the line. There were some dark nights as assistant coaches. I gotta' believe there were. And yet they stuck with it. Ultimately, who would have thought OU would have the best record in college football with that offense, over the course of the next 15 or 20 years.
There was no 20-hour work week back then. We spent a lot of time out there in those days, before and after practice. It was novel, the way it worked out.
(After the loss to Nebraska), we had a lot of people in the locker room. A lot of non-players. Politicians. Nebraska people. Governor David Hall. The players were quiet. Some left quick. The press looked for John Harrison — he was gone. Nobody was happy.
I get incensed if (The Game of the Century) isn't the No. 1 game in the best games ever. I saw one list where it was No. 3, and said, ‘You gotta' be kidding me. What else can be better?' Inevitably, it's going to happen and probably already has. But no one envisioned that going in.
I had been what I would call a ‘complainer.' Like my friends. It was easier to complain (about the government) — we're all guilty of that in some ways — and so somebody challenged me one night. I said, ‘OK, you got it.' Lieutenant Governor's an office that to me offered someone, with what I perceive as my skills, an opportunity to contribute.
The planning was about five minutes. It was not a life-long thing. It was not something I worked on forever. I'm very lucky to have had my brother Richard, because he knew the political insiders.
As garrulous as I think I am, try going through a courthouse introducing yourself. You've got to have some courage, because somebody might say something that's not nice to you. And you've gotta' get used to that. It's much easier to stand off in the corner and not be involved.
I never did well in Payne County. That was OK, I guess. I can understand their logic.
My opponents would spend their time talking about who they were, and I could spend my time talking about what I wanted to do. Everybody didn't know Jack Mildren, but (playing for OU) gave me a leg up. It doesn't sell or close anything, but it gets you in the door.