Fast as lightening, the wisp of a quarterback didn’t get a lot of attention from recruiters while he was a junior at B.C. Elmore High School in Houston. Oklahoma assistant Bill Michael was a regular at Elmore High, the first white coach to ever visit the all black high school. He was there really often and he had noticed the tiny Greg Pruitt when Pruitt was just a freshman. But at that time, Pruitt was probably all of 5-8, 150.
During his senior year of high school, his coach moved him from quarterback to wide receiver and Pruitt just exploded. Supposedly, he caught 87 passes and had 27 touchdowns. With those kinds of stats, some other schools started noticing and started recruiting Pruitt.
Bill Michael of Oklahoma, had been recruiting at Elmore High School the longest and he held the upper hand. Relationships are key in recruiting and Michael won Pruitt over.
Oklahoma with Bill Michael doing the legwork, had a pipeline to Elmore in those years with Albert Qualls starting on defense for the Sooners in the 1971 game of the century.
During the era of desegregation, the B.C. Elmore school closed down and the students merged into the established Forest Brook High School.
At Oklahoma, the freshman Pruitt was a wide receiver on the freshman team as NCAA rules didn’t allow freshmen to play. He was still pretty skinny and needed to bulk up.
In the middle of the 1970 season, the Oklahoma Sooners made an offensive change that would define them for the next nearly 20 years. They installed the brand new Wishbone offense that had been first used by their chief rivals, Texas. The Longhorns first went to the Wishbone in 1968 and won 30 straight games with it. The offense was perfect for the time period because most coaches desired the 3 yards and a cloud of dust type of offensive game plan.
The Oklahoma coaches moved the young sophomore Greg Pruitt to a halfback position and he was not happy at all. He wanted to quit, but his mom talked him out of it.
With talented and athletic quarterback Jack Mildren, the Sooners move to the Wishbone was not seamless and Oklahoma lost 4 games and tied another in finishing 7-4-1. But, they were in the process of adapting and learning on the run. Mildren
Greg Pruitt only ran for 241 yards, but showed flashes of potential that would make him a big time player in the future. The future was not that far away.
In the Big 8 Conference, 1971 was a crazy season. 1971 Big 8
The Sooners, with their new Wishbone offense broke just about every team rushing record in the books. The once unhappy Greg Pruitt had one of the best seasons ever for a college running back and Jack Mildren also crushed the 1,000 yard rushing barrier.
Pruitt was fast. He was shifty, elusive or any other words you can come up with to describe a running back with a lot of speed and moves. Pruitt ran for a very impressive 1,760 yards averaging an
incredible 9.0 yards per carry. He also carried the ball for 18 touchdowns.
It’s always helpful when your quarterback can run like a running back and Jack Mildren ran for 1,289 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Oklahoma had an incredible team in 1971 and they just blew by everybody they faced. The Trojans of USC gave them some competition in their third game before the Sooners won, 33-20. The Sooners ran by rival Texas, 48-27.
While Texas assistant Emory Ballard is credited with inventing the Wishbone, it was Oklahoma and their offensive coordinator and then head coach, Barry Switzer, who perfected it.
The Sooners emptied the bench and still scored 75 points against Kansas State.
Going into the Nebraska game the Oklahoma Sooners were ranked 2nd, while the Cornhuskers were number one. It was the game that for decades was remembered as the real game of the century. Nebraska held on to win, 35-31, but this game very much lived up to it’s billing.
Nebraska went on to crush Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to win the national championship. The Oklahoma Sooners got a match up with 5th ranked Auburn in the Sugar Bowl and the Sooners crushed the Tigers, also.
Nebraska finished number one with Oklahoma right behind them at number two. The Colorado Buffaloes lost two games all season and those losses were to Nebraska and Oklahoma and the Buffs finished ranked 3rd. It was a dominating performance by the old Big 8 Conference.
Auburn’s Pat Sullivan won the Heisman Trophy that season. Greg Pruitt, the former wide receiver, finished in 3rd place behind Cornell’s Ed Marinaro.
Sooner quarterback Jack Mildren finished in 6th place. 1971 Heisman
Jack Mildren used up his eligibility after the 1971 season and Dave Robertson took his spot. Pruitt only ran for 938 yards and 13 touchdowns.
He still garnered enough votes to finish in second place in the Heisman voting behind Nebraska’s
The Sooners finished the 1972 season with an 11-1 record with their only loss coming to Colorado in game 5. Oklahoma recovered in time to win the Big 8 and represent the conference in the Sugar Bowl where they beat Penn State, 14-0.
The 1972 version of the Sooners was mostly about great defense.
Surprisingly, Greg Pruitt made into the 2nd round of the of the 1973 NFL Draft where he was taken by the Cleveland Browns.
Pruitt was a 5 time Pro Bowler in the NFL and even though he only ran for over 5,600 career yards, he was still very successful. He was not only a really good running back, he was also a great blocker, a great receiver and also great as a return man.
Greg Pruitt played 12 seasons in the NFL and was a part of a Super Bowl championship with the Oakland Raiders.
Not too bad for a guy that threatened to quit when moved to running back.