Jack Mildren 1949-2008
Jack Mildren,OU quarterback, in 1971
Jack Mildren, great OU quarterback of the 70's and a Lt. Governor of Oklahoma, passed away last night due to stomach cancer. He was 58.
My first encounter with Jack was not very pleasant to say the least. His high school team, the Abilene Cooper Cougars, and my high school team, the Amarillo Tascosa Rebels, were playing in the 1967 state playoffs. Cooper played us on our home field, and the score wasn't close at all. I think they scored a touchdown on their first play from scrimmage and beat us something like 38-6. What made this worse for me was the fact that Jack was coached by my uncle Merrill. Needless to say, I kept a pretty low profile at school the next week.
All was forgiven when Jack decided to play at the University of Oklahoma. My uncle, who played at OU in the 50's was accused of "nudging" Jack to Oklahoma, but Merrill stayed way out of the picture in the recruiting war that broke out over Jack. Sports Illustrated did a feature article on the battle for Jack.
Freshman could not play varsity football when Jack first came to the school, so Jack played on the freshman "Boomer" squad in 1968. Their games drew large crowds, and big things were forecast for Mildren.
However, at first, Jack disappointed many people. Not all of this was his fault. Steve Owens was in the OU backfield, and it seemed as if the entire 1969 season was dedicated to getting Owens the Heisman Trophy. So Jack mostly handed off to Owens, and the team went 6-4 that year.
In 1970, OU switched to the Wishbone attack. Jack, who had been primarily thought of as a passing quarterback, had to act as a 4th running back and do his passing largely in the form of laterals. When OU first switched to the Wishbone, many in the stands booed and hooted at OU's feeble attempt to immitate the Texas Longhorns who had introduced the formation to college football.
Many of those same people cheered OU on during the storied 1971 season when OU went 11-1 losing only to number 1 Nebraska in "The Game of the Century." Jack made "All American" in 1971.
After college, Jack played for a while in the NFL as a defensive back. He then was successful in the oil business before turning to politics becomng the 22nd Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma. He ran for Governor in 1994, but his campaign was sabatoged by a "Dixiecrat" named Wes Watkins who ran as an independent when he couldn't get the Democratic nomination for himself. Later Watkins switched parties and served as a Republican congressman representing the southeast part of the state known as "Little Dixie."
Jack would have been a good governor. He was compassionate and tolerant. Oklahoma would have gone a better direction had he and not the Republican Frank Keating won that race.
I will miss Jack. We were not close friends, but we knew each other through his connection to my family. I had hoped he would get back into politics again, but sadly that is not to be.
My prayers are with his family.
Article in The Oklahoman on life of Jack Mildren. My Uncle Merrill is quoted in the article.