People who live in Philadelphia, Miss. love to sit on their front porches. To do so is sensible, because a porch is a great place to catch the breeze. It's also a place where one can get involved in the town's social life. A Philadelphian sits on his front porch and waves to and visits with the folks who drive by. Then, after a while, the people who have been sitting on their front porches get in their cars and drive around town and wave at and visit with the same people who a bit earlier had been doing the driving and waving and visiting.
Life in Philadelphia is gently lived. Remember that. People sit on front porches and take joy in the little things. The mailman stops. The school bus brings the children home. The birds chirp.
On the front porch at 274 Davis Street one recent afternoon sits Marcus Dupree, sophomore tailback at the University of Oklahoma, blowing up and then popping his bubble gum. Also on the porch are a rusty green glider, a rickety wooden chair, Dupree's fishing pole and, behind the glider, a saw. There are lots of plants, too, including elephant's-ear, mother-in-law's tongue, red princess, schefflera, palm, English vine and airplane plant. The sweet smell of magnolia blossoms fills the air.
"That you, Marcus?." says a youngster from the street.
That's the way a typical conversation goes with Dupree, who uses one word only when he can't get by with none. He doesn't need to talk. Dupree has earned his considerable reputation with his powerful legs and shoulders, his dazzling speed and shifty feet, not with his mouth.
Dupree is the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman Trophy next fall, the one phenom in a 1983 college crowd that figures to be unphenomenal. "If I rush for 2,000 yards and we win the national championship," he says of two things that might well happen, "they'll have to give me the Heisman." He's probably right, although whether he should be saying so is another matter. Despite not starting until the seventh game last year, Dupree, who is 6'3", is listed at 240 pounds and runs a 4.4 40, rushed for 1,144 yards to become the first freshman ever to lead the Sooners in this department. He was All-Big Eight; he was the conference offensive newcomer of the year; he had nine runs of more than 48 yards, as well as 13 touchdowns. Not long ago five of the eight conference coaches said if they were choosing up sides, Dupree would be their first choice. Nebraska's Tom Osborne didn't vote because, he said, he didn't want to offend his players.
Indeed, after one glorious performance, Dupree's coach, Barry Switzer, went completely around the bend and said, "Marcus Dupree came here with E.T. He's from a different world." And there's evidence that Dupree operates at a level unfamiliar to other players. "Ever since I can remember," says his mother, Cella Dupree Connors, "Marcus has been doing things that nobody else could imagine."