Red River Rivalry – Billy Bookout

Oh sure Marc, Kangaroos may have coached and officiated the Red River Rivalry in the Cotton Bowl. But there’s no way a Roo player could have actually participated in the biggest college football game in the state of Texas, amirite?

Oh ye of little faith.

Despite a stellar career at Wichita Falls HS, Halfback / DB Billy Bookout did not get much interest from college scouts in 1951. Frustrated & determined, Bookout hitchhiked to Norman, Oklahoma to enroll at OU and attempt the near impossible: earn a walk-on spot on the greatest program in the nation, Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma Sooners. The Sooners were defending national champions in 1951; the success of Wilkinsons’ Sooners during the post-war era is documented in Jim Dent’s book “The Undefeated.”

Bookout pulled it off, earning a walk-on spot after Wilkinson was impressed with his efforts during summer camp. That spot would eventually turn into a scholarship offer. In “The Undefeated,” Bookout earns his 1951 spot in the very first practice after numerous stops of Sooner running back Billy Vessels. Vessels would win the Heisman Trophy in 1952, Oklahoma’s first. The famous 47-game winning streak by the Sooners began one year later.

Texas A&M & Texas both ensured that winning streak would not begin in 1951. After a loss at Kyle Field (with Bookout making the front page; see the comments), OU traveled to the Cotton Bowl to take on the Longhorns in the Red River Rivalry. Bookout’s play on defense was solid, limiting the Horns offense to just one score. But Texas prevailed 9-7 in the 29th edition of the Red River Rivalry in Dallas. The Horns would not beat OU in Dallas for another 7 years.

In 1952, Bookout transferred from Oklahoma to Austin College. As a two-way player for AC, Bookout’s playing time dramatically increased. His trips to the Cotton Bowl did not decline either. In October of 1952, AC traveled to the Cotton Bowl to take on the University of Mexico (UNAM) Pumas. It was Mexico Day at the State Fair, as patrons were rewarded with both Roo football and the entertainment of Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis. Bookout’s Roos fell to the Pumas; five days later, the Longhorns fell to Bookout’s Sooners in the 30th edition of the Red River Rivalry.

Billy Bookout played two years in the NFL for the Green Bay Packers. He then entered the world of Texas HS coaching in 1958, becoming the youngest head coach in Texas at age 25. In 1961, Bookout became an assistant of Coach Fred Pennington at L.D. Bell HS in Euless. Seven years later, Bookout became the first head coach of a second Euless high school: the Euless Trinity Trojans. Billy Bookout passed in 2008; his memorial service was held at Pennington Field, named for his former coaching colleague. He was inducted posthumously into the Austin College Hall of Honor one year later.

Another edition of the Red River Rivalry kicks off this Saturday. If you are ever asked if a Roo played in that game, the answer is yes! Billy Bookout suited up for the Sooners in the 1951 classic at the Cotton Bowl, and then returned to the Cotton Bowl one year later…………suited up in Roo Crimson & Gold.