Transfer SZN: Oklahoma's Top 10 Transfers of the Last 20 Years: No. 4, Dede Westbrook

After overcoming a rough beginning and several stops and starts, Dede Westbrook became a college football superstar and a Sooner legend.
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The NCAA transfer portal is always open. With 10 transfers over the last two seasons — including five Division I transfers new to the Oklahoma roster in 2021 — OU has made a living off transfers in recent years. Every Tuesday this summer, SI Sooners examines Oklahoma's 10 best transfers of the last 20 years. (Josh Heupel and Torrance Marshall, class of ’99, are outside of that time frame.)

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No. 4: Dede’s Day

Dede Westbrook overcame a life-threatening injury, bad grades and a busted leg. He also overcame a desire to quit football.

But once Westbrook became a junior college All-American at Blinn College near his hometown of Cameron, TX, and once he broke out as a prized recruit for the Oklahoma Sooners, he was finally on his way.

Dede Westbrook at West Virginia

Dede Westbrook at West Virginia

Westbrook got to OU at midterm in 2015 after two years at Blinn — one that was wrecked by a leg injury, one that was bolstered by juco All-America honors — and he was ready for immediate Division I stardom.

His sophomore year at Blinn, Westbrook ranked second in the nation with 76 catches and ranked first with 1,487 yards and 13 touchdowns — in just eight games.

Yet a personal issue with the mother of his two children during his freshman year made him consider quitting football and getting a job to support the family. But he’d come so far — a ruptured intestine in high school that scared everyone close to him, a lax academic approach that derailed his Division I path — he realized football was his best way to provide.

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As a sophomore at Blinn, Westbrook put together an almost inconceivable run: 14 catches for 370 yards and three touchdowns, 10 catches for 141 yards and one touchdown, 10 catches for 229 yards and three touchdowns, 10 catches for 195 yards and one touchdown, 10 catches for 148 yards and one touchdown, 11 catches for 205 yards and one touchdown, and seven catches for 151 yards and two touchdowns.

Bob Stoops was sold. So was new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley and first-year quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Westbrook landed at OU, and was senior Sterling Shepard’s understudy — a 6-foot, 175-pound fighter who ran a 4.39; not a bad complementary receiver for Mayfield.

Shepard led the Sooners with 86 catches for 1,288 yards and 11 TDs, while Westbrook contributed 46 for 743 and four scores.

The following season, Westbrook added some muscle, improved his speed, refocused on the details he picked up from Shepard and became a college football force of nature.

Dede Westbrook

Dede Westbrook

Westbrook’s senior year culminated with 80 receptions for 1,524 yards and a nation-leading 17 touchdowns — and that was after a slow start.

In the fourth game of the season, a victory over TCU, Westbrook caught seven passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns. Then came his big breakout, a 10-catch, school record 232-yard, three-TD game against Texas in the Cotton Bowl. He lit up Kansas State for 184 yards and three TDs on nine catches, hit Texas Tech for 202 yards and two TDs on nine grabs, caught five for 105 and a score against Kansas, and seven for 131 and a score against Iowa State.

Westbrook had four catches for 88 yards and two TDs against Baylor, then finished the regular season with 100 yards and a TD on just two catches in the snow at West Virginia, and torched Oklahoma State for 111 yards and a TD on four catches.

Westbrook had gone from small-town athlete with a mountain of hurdles ahead of him to New York City as a finalist, alongside Mayfield, for the 2015 Heisman Trophy. 

He finished his senior year in style by taking home the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the best receiver in college football — as if there were any doubt by that point.

At a school that has routinely produced All-American receivers, Westbrook remains the Sooners’ only Biletnikoff winner.

Dede Westbrook

Dede Westbrook in Jacksonville

He was a fourth-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2017 NFL Draft (110th overall) and in four seasons with the club has battled injuries but still played in 40 games (25 starts) and made 160 receptions for 1,720 yards and scored nine touchdowns. He caught 66 passes for 717 yards and five TDs in 2018 and 66 passes for 660 yards and three TDs in 2019 before sitting out almost all of last year with a knee injury.

Westbrook is still looking for a team after the Jaguars didn’t extend his rookie contract. In his four years in Jacksonville, Westbrook earned $4.4 million, according to Spotrac.