Every Thursday this summer, SI Sooners ranks the top 10 Oklahoma Sooners at their respective positions. Today: wide receiver.
Ranking the best wide receivers in Oklahoma history requires a little more thought than just scrolling down the Sooners’ career receiving charts.
Eddie Hinton was one of the most dynamic athletes in the nation and was a productive wingback in an era when throwing the football was thought stupid and careless. Tinker Owens was a two-time All-American and was wildly productive on a two-time national champion that almost never threw the football. And Tommy McDonald was better in the NFL than he was at OU — and he was a two-time All-American at OU. Being one of just two Sooners in the Pro Football Hall of Fame carries a lot of weight on our list.
Narrowing down a top 10 wasn’t that challenging because the Sooners are still only two decades into embracing the forward pass as their primary means of moving the football. Behind these 10, there might be another three or four players who could make a case. (And no tight ends; they’ll have their own list later on.)
Still, slotting some of the Sooner wideouts since Jason White, Sam Bradford, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray took over Heisman weekend wasn’t that easy. Mark Clayton? Malcolm Kelly? Juaquin Iglesias? Ryan Broyles? Sterling Shepard? Dede Westbrook? Marquise Brown? CeeDee Lamb? That’s three first-round draft picks, an NCAA record-holder, a Biletnikoff Award winner, about three dozen school records and a whole bunch of NFL games.
10. Malcolm Kelly (2005-07)
Fellow 2005 freshman Juaquin Iglesias was more consistent and, in the long-term, more productive. But few in OU history could match Malcolm Kelly’s flair for making dramatic, acrobatic catches. After coming to OU from Longview, TX, Kelly played only three seasons and like Iglesias was a Day 1 starter as a true freshman. He led the team with 33 catches for 471 yards and scored two touchdowns in 2005 (earning Sporting News Freshman All-American), exploded for 62 catches for 993 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore (he was named MVP of the Big 12 Championship Game), and as a junior caught 49 for 821 and nine scores, including the game-winning TD in the fourth quarter against Texas. For his career, he averaged 15.9 yards per catch. When he left for the NFL, Kelly ranked second in school history in receptions (144), third in receiving yards (2,285) and second in TD catches (21). Kelly was a second-round pick of the Washington Redskins in 2008 (51st overall) and played in 21 games with 28 catches for 355 yards over his three seasons with the club before injuries forced him to retire.
9. Tinker Owens (1972-75)
The younger brother of 1969 Heisman Trophy winner Steve Owens became an elite Sooner in his own right — despite catching footballs at the start of the wishbone era. From Miami, OK, Owens was mostly a blocker in Barry Switzer’s early ‘bone days, but still was a two-time All-American as he helped the Sooners to back-to-back national championships in 1974 and 1975. Owens finished his career second in school history behind Eddie Hinton in catches (70), yards (1,619) and TD receptions (11). In 1972, he set a school freshman record with 430 receiving yards, which stood for 27 years. Highlighted by his 163-yard game (on five catches) against Texas, Owens averaged a school-record 23.3 yards per catch, including 26.2 as a sophomore, 22.9 as a junior and 25.3 as a senior. Owens was a fourth-round pick of the New Orleans Saints in the 1976 NFL Draft (95th overall), played four seasons and caught 60 passes for 785 yards and four TDs.
8. Eddie Hinton (1966-68)
Eddie Hinton’s career at Oklahoma is largely unappreciated, but in an era when the Sooners didn’t throw the football much, he was a dominant player who excelled at the wingback position. The Lawton, OK, product left OU as the career and single-season record holder for catches, yards and touchdowns. He caught 60 passes for 967 yards and six TDs as a senior in 1968 (he was All-Conference and Academic All-American) and averaged 16.1 yards per catch. In his career, Hinton caught 123 passes for 1,894 yards (still 11th in school history) and 12 TDs. Meanwhile, he also ran with the football 106 times for 629 yards and scored seven touchdowns rushing during his career. His 20-yard TD catch helped OU beat Tennessee in the 1968 Orange Bowl. Most of Hinton’s records stood at OU until the wishbone era finally ended in the 1990s. Hinton was a first-round pick of the Baltimore Colts in the 1969 NFL Draft (25th overall) and played six NFL seasons with the Colts, Houston Oilers and New England Patriots. He won Super Bowl V with Baltimore and finished his NFL career with 111 catches for 1,822 yards and 10 touchdowns.
7. Marquise Brown (2017-18)
The fastest player on this list and one of the fastest in school history only played two seasons at OU, but made an indelible impact. As a junior college All-American at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, CA, out of Hollywood, FL, Brown jumped to the top of Lincoln Riley’s first depth chart with his raw speed and deceptive agility. As a junior, he caught 57 passes for 1,095 yards — 19.2 yards per catch — and scored seven touchdowns. As a senior in 2018, Brown grew his game as a more complete receiver, catching 75 passes for 1,318 yards (17.6 per catch) and scoring 10 touchdowns and earning first-team All-America accolades. He smashed the school record with 265 receiving yards in a 2017 game against Oklahoma State. Despite playing just two seasons, Brown is seventh in school history with 2,413 career receiving yards and is second in the modern era with an average of 18.3 yards per catch. Brown was a first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in the 2019 NFL Draft (25th overall) and in his first two NFL seasons has 104 receptions for 1,353 yards and 15 touchdowns.
6. Mark Clayton (2000-04)
When Mark Clayton got to Oklahoma, he was a skinny 3-star recruit who had played high schooler in Arlington, TX. When he left, he was the Sooners’ all-time leader in catches (221), yards (3,241) and touchdown grabs (31). Clayton redshirted during the Sooners’ 2000 national championship season, then he broke into the starting lineup in 2001, catching 46 passes for 524 yards and three touchdowns. In 2002, he caught 26-416-5, and in 2003, he became a first-team All-American with 83 catches for 1,425 yards and 15 touchdowns — smashing all three school records. Clayton was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award as college football’s top wideout, and he helped Jason White win the Heisman by compiling 15 100-yard games. Clayton gained more All-American recognition in 2004 with 66 catches for 876 yards and eight TDs. Clayton was a first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2005 (22nd overall) and was an immediate contributor 44 catches for 471 yards and two TDs as a rookie and then grabbing 67-939-5 in his second year. Clayton played five years with the Ravens and one with the St. Louis Rams and finished his career with 260 catches for 3,448 yards and 14 touchdowns in 83 career games.
5. Dede Westbrook (2015-16)
After Marquise Brown, Dede Westbrook is the second-fastest player on this list — but not by much. Westbrook went to Blinn Junior College out of Cameron, TX, and in just two seasons at OU, he caught 126 passes for 2,267 yards and had 21 touchdown receptions for the Sooners, averaging 18.0 yards per catch and logging nine 100-yard games. As a junior, Westbrook caught 46 passes for 743 yards and scored four touchdowns, but as a senior, he exploded on the national scene with 80 receptions for 1,524 yards and a school record 17 touchdowns and becoming the first Sooner to win the Fred Biletnikoff Award as college football’s best receiver and finishing fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting and accompanying Baker Mayfield to New York City as one of two OU finalists for the award. Westbrook was a fourth-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2017 NFL Draft (110th overall) and so far has played four NFL seasons with the Jags, catching 159 passes for 1,716 yards and nine touchdowns. He suffered a knee injury and missed most of the 2020 season on injured reserve.
4. Sterling Shepard (2012-15)
Son of the late Sooners WR Derrick Shepard, who died when Sterling Shepard was 6 years old, “Shep” always wanted to be a Sooner. He came around Bob Stoops’ practices with his uncles (former Sooners Darrell and Woodie) and grew up in Oklahoma City crimson to the core. Shepard became a high school All-American at Heritage Hall, where he was an all-purpose threat (and three-sport star), and his freshman season got off to a bang with seven catches for 108 yards and TD in just his second game. As a junior he posted 177 yards against Tulsa and 215 against TCU before missing almost the entire second half of the season with a groin injury. Shepard’s performance in the comeback at Tennessee in 2015 — a 5-yard TD to force overtime, and a game-winning 18-yarder in OT — will go down as legend. As a senior he caught 86 passes for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns, and he finished his college career with 233 receptions (second in school history) for 3,482 yards (second) and 26 TD grabs (tied for fourth). Shepard was a second-round pick of the New York Giants in the 2016 NFL Draft (40th overall), and so far has played five productive seasons with the club. He has 313 career receptions for 3,518 yards and 20 touchdowns, including career-highs of 66 catches (twice), 872 yards (in 2018) and eight TDs (2016).
3. Tommy McDonald (1954-56)
From a completely different era of football, Tommy McDonald was, simply put, one of the finest all-around players Bud Wilkinson ever coached. McDonald doesn’t appear on any of the OU career or single-season stat sheets — his top year as a pass-catcher was 1956, when he grabbed 12 passes for 282 yards and four TDs — but in that era, McDonald played halfback, split end and even got some time at quarterback in Wilkinson’s split-T offense. He came to OU as an All-State football, basketball and track athlete in Albuquerque, but finished his college career with 1,696 yards rushing and 29 touchdowns (16 in 1955), 420 yards and six TDs receiving and 590 yards and three TDs passing. In helping lead OU to back-to-back national championships, McDonald accounted for 38 career touchdowns, including a nation-leading 19 in 1956, when he was named consensus All-America for the second time, won the Maxwell Award as the nation’s best all-around player, the Sporting News Player of the Year, and finished third in the Heisman voting. He also starred on defense. But it wasn’t until McDonald got to the NFL that he really blossomed. A third-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1957 NFL Draft, McDonald signed for $12,000 then sat the bench as a rookie running back. An injury at wide receiver forced a position change, and McDonald’s career took off. In 12 seasons with the Eagles, Rams, Falcons, Browns and Cowboys, McDonald caught 495 passes for 8,410 yards and 84 touchdowns (second in NFL history at the time) and added another 1,459 yards and one TD on kickoff and punt returns. Included in his pro career were three 1,000-yard seasons, four years with double-digit TDs, and six Pro Bowl appearances and four All-Pro honors, including the 1961 season, when he led the NFL with 1,144 receiving yards on 64 catches and caught a league-high 13 touchdown grabs. McDonald also won the NFL Championship with the Eagles in 1960. In 1985, McDonald was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, and in 1998, he joined Lee Roy Selmon as the only Sooners enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
2. Ryan Broyles (2007-11)
Coming out of neighborhood Norman High School, Ryan Broyles flip-flopped in recruiting, first committing to OU, then OSU, then signing with the Sooners on National Signing Day. But once he got past a rough true freshman season (he was suspended for the year for illegally getting free gas from a local retailer), Broyles became a statistical sensation. On the Sooners’ 2008 team that was loaded with offensive talent, he caught 46 passes for 687 yards and six touchdowns. Then in 2009, after Sam Bradford’s shoulder injury, Broyles and Landry Jones exploited the Sooners’ up-tempo offense for 89 catches, 1,120 yard and 15 touchdowns. As a junior, Broyles set the new OU standard and led the nation with 131 receptions for a school-record 1,622 yards and 14 TDs. And as a senior, he truly proved his worth with 83 catches for 1,157 yards and 10 TDs in just nine games — then painfully watched as the offense screeched to a halt without him following his knee injury. Broyles finished his OU career with an all-time NCAA record 349 receptions (now owned by East Carolina’s Justin Hardy) for 4,586 yards (still third-most in Division I history) and a Big 12-record 45 touchdowns. Broyles remains the OU leader in almost every major receiving category (including 23 100-yard games), but unfortunately his fateful 2011 injury followed him into the NFL. He was a second-round pick of the Detroit Lions in the 2012 NFL Draft (54th overall) and was named the 2012 Lions Rookie of the Year by the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association after catching 22 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns. But Broyles played in just 10 games that rookie season, then got only six games and five games over the next two years before retiring. His pro potential went unfulfilled as he had just 32 receptions for 420 yards and two TDs.
1. CeeDee Lamb (2017-19)
Maybe it’s too soon to anoint CeeDee Lamb the No. 1 spot on this list. But maybe it’s not. In just three seasons at Oklahoma, Lamb stands third in school history with 3,292 receiving yards, sixth with 173 receptions, and second with 32 touchdown catches. Lamb, a Louisiana transplant after Hurricane Katrina, arrived at OU from Richmond, TX, and played with three different quarterbacks — Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts — but still compiled 14 100-yard games and set the modern-day OU career record with 19.0 yards per catch. He piled up all these numbers despite playing understudy to Marquise Brown in 2017 and 2018. As a sophomore, Lamb caught 65 passes for 1,158 yards and 11 touchdowns, and as a junior he grabbed 62 passes for 1,327 yards and 14 scores. His final year, he averaged 21.4 yards per catch, most by any OU player with at least 50 catches. Lamb was named Most Outstanding Player of the Big 12 Championship Game after torching Baylor for 173 yards and a touchdown on eight catches, then finished his career with four catches for 119 yards in the CFB Peach Bowl loss to LSU. Lamb was a first-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in the 2020 NFL Draft (No. 17 overall) and didn’t disappoint Cowboy fans. He finished his rookie season with 69 receptions for 935 yards and five touchdowns, returned an onside kick for a touchdown, and also had 12 punt returns for 85 yards and nine rushes for 79 yards and a touchdown.