SI Vault
John Underwood
November 12, 1973
As members of the Sooner defense, brothers Lucious, Dewey and LeRoy Selmon polish off their rivals' running game
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November 12, 1973

Oklahomans Call It Selmonizing

As members of the Sooner defense, brothers Lucious, Dewey and LeRoy Selmon polish off their rivals' running game

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Lucious Sr., now retired after a series of debilitating illnesses, was father to a home charged with familial devotion and self-respect. (Lucious Jr. makes this point so that "Mama doesn't get all the publicity.") To the townspeople of Eufaula, the Selmons are beloved. They speak of their good citizenship ("None of my nine children ever saw the inside of a jail," says Jessie Selmon, "and when it came 9 o'clock I always knew where they were. They were home"). They speak, too, in Eufaula of the Selmons' devotion to church and school. Lacewell recalls that the tiny television set in the living room was always dark from Monday to Friday. "When Mama said study, we studied," says Lucious.

Though wretchedly poor, the Selmons always paid their bills, and suffered the inconveniences of poverty. Without a tractor, the boys plowed with a harrow behind the family horse. Lucious, 2� years older than Dewey, who is 11 months older than LeRoy, grew uncommonly strong. He could carry a 150-pound hog under one arm. "But I was no match for Mama," he says. "She caught me bringing in a can of beer one night and made me pour it into the hog slop." Lucious is now old enough to enjoy an occasional orange blossom cocktail, but he has not forgotten that the hogs once beat him out of a beer.

Lucious was the first Selmon to be exposed to football. He taught Dewey and LeRoy the game with a tin can in the side yard, and took them on, one-on-two. "He always won," says Jessie, "until we found out he was making up the rules." They had their scuffles—Lucious remained supreme—but none recalls ever engaging in a serious fight, or even a falling-out. "It was unthinkable," says Lucious. "It would be degrading to Mama and Daddy."

Ultimately, Larry Lacewell had to out-talk Colorado Coach Eddie Crowder for Lucious, but he suspected all along he had the inside track. When Lucious signed, Jessie Selmon admonished Lacewell with this: "You're recruiting my boy as a football player, but I'm sending him to Oklahoma to get an education. He won't be a football player forever." It was inevitable that Dewey and LeRoy would follow Lucious to Norman. Mama wanted it. But they accepted Crowder's invitation to have a look at Colorado anyway. For the plane ride.

The brothers Selmon, all of whom were running backs in high school, no longer dream of scoring touchdowns. Lucious said he'd much rather be "the chaser than the chasee," and Switzer obligingly surrounded his central jewel with Dewey and LeRoy, regretting only that he lacked the foresight to number them progressively—say, 97, 98 and 99.

There was considerable doubt early in the year that they would all make first string together. LeRoy, who as a 17-year-old freshman had started against Texas in the Cotton Bowl, was stricken with pericarditis, an inflammation of the sac around the heart. It was feared that Dewey and Lucious suffered from the same condition and they too were hospitalized. But their tests proved negative. LeRoy made a swift, almost frantic, recovery, and by the third game he was back in the lineup with his two older brothers.

And Switzer found himself caught up in the continuing contretemps of comparison. Lucious, he said, was the more experienced, the steadying hand, and maybe the stronger. Therefore the best. But then, Dewey had the closest thing to a mean streak one could find among the Selmons. Clearly the most aggressive. He was the best. And yet, here was LeRoy, a growing boy already bigger than the others. And faster, too. "When he finds out nobody can block him...." Switzer whistles softly over the prodigies he can see ahead for LeRoy.

In Eufaula, meanwhile, the townspeople eagerly await the latest dispatches on the brothers. At the J & M Cafe they gather daily and compare notes. Max Silverman, a retired merchant, is one of them. Max plays dominoes and, at opportune times, can be found holding good cards at the irregular meeting of "The Book Review Club."

Max goes way back. For a long time when the school kids of Eufaula were asked who the most famous Jew in history was, they would write "Max Silverman" instead of " Jesus Christ." Max can remember former Eufaula athletes who went on to play football at Oklahoma. Such as the late Joe Golding in 1946 and L.A. Cowling in 1942.

Eufaula was an agricultural center then. But the big dam built in 1965 changed everything. The town is mostly for tourists now, coming in to fish and boat on the local reservoir that pins it down on three sides. Most of the people don't remember that Max was a basketball star years ago and, in his unflagging support of local athletics, was once the only paid spectator at a high school game.

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