Doak Walker

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Doak Walker
Doak Walker.jpg
circa 1948
No. 37
Position: Halfback, kicker, punter
Personal information
Date of birth: (1927-01-01)January 1, 1927
Place of birth: Dallas, Texas
Date of death: September 27, 1998(1998-09-27) (aged 71)
Place of death: Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Height: 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight: 175 lb (79 kg)
Career information
High school: Highland Park (TX)
College: SMU
NFL draft: 1949 / Round: 1 / Pick: 3
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Rushing Yards: 1,520
Average: 4.9
Touchdowns: 33
Stats at

Ewell Doak Walker, Jr. (January 1, 1927 – September 27, 1998) was an American football player. He played college football as a halfback at Southern Methodist University (SMU), where he won the Heisman Trophy in 1948. Walker then played professionally in the National Football League (NFL) with the Detroit Lions for six seasons, from 1950 to 1955. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1959 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986. The Doak Walker Award, awarded annually since 1990 to the top running back in college football, is named after him.

Early life[edit]

Born in Dallas, Texas, Walker attended Highland Park High School in University Park, where he was a multiple-sport athlete. He and future college and NFL star Bobby Layne were teammates at Highland Park.

College career[edit]

Walker played college football at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, where he was a halfback and placekicker. He also threw and caught passes, punted, and returned kicks. He was a three-time All-American, in 1947, 1948, and 1949. He won the Maxwell Award as a sophomore in 1947 and the Heisman Trophy in 1948 as a junior. Walker's impact on SMU and football in the Dallas area led to the Cotton Bowl's nickname: "The House That Doak Built." Walker was also a member of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, the men's society Cycen Fjodr,[1] and lettered on the SMU basketball and baseball teams. In 2007, he was ranked #4 on ESPN's list of the top 25 players in college football history.

NFL career[edit]

Walker was selected third overall in the 1949 NFL draft in December 1948 by the Boston Yanks. The Detroit Lions acquired his draft rights in January 1950, where he was once again played with former high school teammate Layne. Although Walker was only 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m) and 175 lb (79 kg),[2] he was voted All-Pro four times, and he helped lead the Lions to consecutive NFL championships in 1952 and 1953. Walker also led the NFL in scoring twice (1950 and 1955) and tallied 534 points in his career (330 on field goals and extra points). In honor of his achievements, the Lions retired his number 37. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, inducted in 1986.

Family and later life[edit]

Walker married his high school sweetheart, and they had four children. He later married Olympic skier Skeeter Werner. Doak Walker died in September 1998 as a result of paralyzing injuries suffered in a skiing accident eight months earlier.[3][4] His death came 50 years to the day that he was featured on the cover of LIFE magazine in 1948.


Walker is immortalized by the annual Doak Walker Award, given to the best running back in college football, and by a statue placed between Gerald Ford Stadium and SMU's Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports.

Award-winning Sports Illustrated writer Rick Reilly said of Walker shortly before his death:

"He's Doak Walker, and he was as golden as golden gets. He had perfectly even, white teeth and a jaw as square as a deck of cards and a mop of brown hair that made girls bite their necklaces. He was so shifty you couldn't have tackled him in a phone booth, yet so humble that he wrote the Associated Press a thank-you note for naming him an All-American. Come to think of it, he was a three-time All-American, twice one of the Outstanding Players in the Cotton Bowl, a four-time All-Pro. He appeared on 47 covers, including Life, Look and Collier's. One time, Kyle Rote, another gridiron golden boy, saw a guy buying a football magazine at a newsstand. 'Don't buy that one,' Rote said. 'It's not official. It doesn't have a picture of Doak Walker on the cover.'" [5]

However, fellow Sports Illustrated writer Paul Zimmerman cited Walker as the least deserving member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.[6]

Shortly after Walker's death in 1998, Texas running back Ricky Williams wore Walker's number 37 in a game as opposed to his customary number 34 in remembrance of Walker. Williams would go on to set the NCAA all-time rushing record that season (though it has since been eclipsed by Ron Dayne), winning the Heisman Trophy in the process.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ SMU 1946 Online yearbook
  2. ^ Nicholson, Norman (October 3, 1955). "Pro Football: Doak Walker". Sports Illustrated: 42. 
  3. ^ "Ex-Lion Doak Walker injured critically in skiing accident". Ludington (MI) Daily News. Associated Press. January 31, 1998. p. 7. 
  4. ^ "Doak Walker dies at 71". Observer-Reporter (Washington, Pennsylvania). Associated Press. September 28, 1998. p. A-13. 
  5. ^ "1998 Year in Review – Saying Goodbye – Saying goodbye to Doak Walker". CNN/SI. 1998-12-16. Retrieved 2007-08-26. 
  6. ^ Paul Zimmerman (2007-08-03). "Latest Hall of Fame class deserving but incomplete". Retrieved 2007-08-26. 

External links[edit]