Friends, fellow players, and coaches remembered former University of Oklahoma standout quarterback Steve Davis as much for his prowess from the pulpit as on the gridiron.
Davis, an ordained Baptist preacher and the Sooners' starting quarterback when it won back-to-back national championships in 1974 and 1975, was one of two people killed when a small aircraft smashed into three homes in northern Indiana, officials said Monday.
Pastor Deron Spoo at First Baptist Church in Tulsa said Davis had "very deep faith" and was committed to the church.
He said Davis had joined the about 3,600-member congregation a couple of decades ago, but that Davis' travels and work took him elsewhere.
"Even while Steve was becoming one of OU’s greatest Wishbone quarterbacks of all time, he was more interested in sharing the message of Jesus Christ with whomever would listen," said Duane Baccus, a defensive end for OU who played with Davis from 1973-1975. "And when you're leading the Oklahoma Sooners to back-to-back national championships, there were a lot of people who were listening."
In an email to KGOU, Baccus said he last saw Davis a few months ago at the Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas.
"He was still wearing that big wonderful smile and lifting people up," Baccus said.
Davis often shared his Christian testimony with groups around the country, even during his time at the University of Oklahoma. On Sept. 4, 1975, just 10 days before the Sooners' opener against the University of Oregon, Davis spoke to thousands during a nationally-televised Billy Graham Crusade in Lubbock, Texas.
"My dad was not a Christian for the first 16 years of my life," Davis said. "And if there's a dad here tonight, as one who knows, Dad, you're the biggest disappointment and heartbreak that your children have if you've never experienced a life in Christ. And it made a difference to me when my dad became a Christian when I was 16."
In a post on Twitter Monday morning, former OU head coach Barry Switzer called his first quarterback a "great role model for young people on and off the field."
I'm saddened by the loss of Steve Davis. Great role model for young people on & off the field. He was my 1st QB & had an outstanding career.
— Barry Switzer (@Barry_Switzer) March 18, 2013
Davis led OU to 28-straight victories until November 8, 1975, when the streak was snapped in a 23-3 loss to the University of Kansas. In his autobiography Bootlegger's Boy, Switzer said once the fans in Norman started booing, no one felt worse than Davis.
From Bootlegger's Boy:
"You really don't know how a team will react to a devastating loss like ours to Kansas. Steve Davis came to me and said, 'It's taken me three or four days to get over the team - and me personally - being booed like that. It sort of confused my Christian faith for our people to act like that. Those people have got the wrong idea of what this game is all about.'"
Current University of Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops said in a statement that Davis "carried the hopes and dreams of an entire state on his shoulders" during the Sooners' 1974 and 1975 championship runs.
"While his record of accomplishment on the field will long be remembered, I will always appreciate the personal support and encouragement that Steve provided to me and our student-athletes. He was a man of exceptional character who will be deeply missed," Stoops said.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.