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Billy Vessels, 70; Won 1952 Heisman Trophy as Okla. Halfback

November 19, 2001|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Billy Vessels, 70, the elusive Oklahoma halfback who won the 1952 Heisman Trophy, died Saturday in his home in Coral Gables, Fla., after a long illness.

Vessels was an All-American in 1952 and was the first Oklahoma player to win the Heisman. He finished that college season second in the nation in rushing with 1,072 yards and second in scoring with 108 points, and was named AP back of the year.

He was a two-time all-conference selection who set school records for rushing yards, scoring and all-purpose yards in a season. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

After a leg injury ended a brief professional career with the Baltimore Colts and the Canadian Football League, Vessels became involved in horse breeding. He served on the Florida Parimutuel Commission from 1976 to 1983 and later became its executive director.

He was elected president of the National Assn. of State Racing Commissions in 1984 and served as director of the Florida division of parimutuel wagering from 1987 to 1989.

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