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Former Oklahoma QB Steve Davis, star in '70s, dies in plane crash

March 18, 2013|By Matt Pearce

When a plane crashed into a neighborhood in South Bend, Ind., on Sunday, it took the lives of two men, one of whom was former  University of Oklahoma star quarterback Steve Davis, officials said Monday morning.

Davis, 60, and Wesley Caves, 58, were both on a Hawker Beechcraft jet headed out of Tulsa, Okla., when the plane apparently suffered electrical problems.

The plane, which had four passengers, briefly touched down in South Bend, took off again and then crashed into a neighborhood just southeast of South Bend Regional Airport, ultimately landing in a home, local media reported.

Three people were hospitalized with injuries, including one woman on the ground, and several homes were evacuated, officials said.

According to FAA records, the Beechcraft was registered to Helena-based 7700 Enterprises of Montana LLC.

The University of Oklahoma Athletic Department confirmed Davis died in the crash and said it would issue a statement shortly.

As a sophomore quarterback in 1973, the 5-foot-10, 183-pound Davis led Oklahoma to its first undefeated season since 1956, with a 10-0-1 record. The tie came against USC. From there on out, Davis' squads ripped out 28 straight victories and were proclaimed national champions in 1974 and '75. Davis ended his college career in 1975 with a 32-1-1 record.

In addition to being a master of the wishbone formation, Davis was already a Baptist minister by the time he stepped under center for Coach Barry Switzer; he'd been licensed during high school. Before the 1975 season, he missed a practice to give a 20-minute televised testimonial with evangelist Billy Graham.

Being an Oklahoma quarterback means being an Oklahoma celebrity -- sometimes a national celebrity, when the football is good -- and in 1974, Los Angeles Times staff writer Bob Oates reported that Davis "gets behind a pulpit somewhere in Oklahoma every Sunday morning the year round except in the fall, when football takes five hours of his time each day."

"He is an exuberant, uninhibited, effective preacher in the old-time style who dresses informally and speaks without notes," Oates reported.

Davis was born in Sallisaw, Okla., into a family of football players, The Times reported back then. He had three brothers.

"I felt like God had persuaded me to come into his service," Davis recalled in 1974, saying he wanted to have his own church someday in Oklahoma. "I like the climate here. I like the lifestyle, I like these godly people."

After his college career, he became a college football broadcaster for 18 years, according to the Tulsa World, and his own prophecy came true: He stayed in Oklahoma, settling in Tulsa. And according to the World, on the Sunday morning before the crash, he was in church.

“He was in class [Sunday] and we were talking about something and Steve just shared how important it was for him to be a Christian,” Jean Barrett, Davis’ Sunday School teacher at Tulsa’s First Baptist Church, told the paper. “It meant the world to him."

Remembrances were already pouring in online, including from former Sooners linebacker Brian Bosworth and former Oklahoma coach Switzer:

— Phil Cooke (@PhilCooke) March 18, 2013

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matt.pearce@latimes.com

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