Oklahoma soccer legend Marcus Dupree had the greatest run of his life on Tuesday.
Dupree, arguably the most talented running back in college football history during his undeniable 1982 season at OU, was in the right place at the right time when he helped extricate a woman from her vehicle after a high-speed accident on the Turner Turnpike.
“I couldn’t even believe it was happening before my eyes,” Dupree said.
Dupree was in Norman over the weekend for the Sooners’ annual Red/White Game, and he was on his way to Tulsa to attend an NFL draft fundraiser to raise money for high schools to buy athletic equipment.
He said the motorist overtook him in the right lane and tried to swerve to the left to pass a tractor-trailer, but he said he thought the truck had changed lanes and she cut him off before he spun and turned. Her SUV hit the guardrail and came to rest on the driver’s side.
Dupree stopped, ran ahead, and immediately assessed the situation.
“The back part was blocked. It was bent. She couldn’t get out,” Dupree said in a phone interview with SI Sooners on Wednesday morning. “The window was broken. Luckily it didn’t burn because she was a big girl and I couldn’t have gotten her out if she was unconscious or whatever. It was hard to get her out of there.”
Dupree said he called 911 and began helping the woman exit their vehicles on the freeway’s shoulder near mile marker 164, east of the Wellston exit. When they safely exited the vehicle, the local fire department arrived. He said the woman was taken to an ambulance and first responders told him she was fine.
Todd Beesley, Wellston Police Chief and Fire Chief, described the scene upon his arrival – and his surprise at learning the Good Samaritan’s identity.
“We came on site and I initially got in touch with him,” Beesley told SI Sooners. “He came up to me and I asked him if he had an accident. He said he wasn’t, he witnessed it and he helped get the driver out through the rear window of the SUV and he pulled her out and helped her out through the rear window.
“Then he told me who he was,” Beesley said, laughing.
Beesley said he recognized Dupree’s name and likeness immediately.
“Well, I was kind of surprised,” Beesley said. “I’m pretty sure you could see that on my face. Because when he said his name, I looked at him and he said, ‘Yes, that’s me.’ So yes. It’s not every day you meet someone like that on the side of the road. That’s for sure.”
Beesley said Wellston’s emergency services got to the scene in “probably less than five minutes” and paramedics had the woman in the ambulance when it arrived.
Dupree said the whole incident was over relatively quickly.
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“I spoke to (Beesley) and the Highway Patrol and then left,” Dupree said. “Well I think she was fine. I think she was a bit dazed.”
Dupree said he was shocked that no other motorists stopped to provide assistance.
“No one stopped,” he said. “That tripped me up. Nobody stopped. I guess there was this (Latino) guy over in the field and he heard it and he came running. He jumped the fence and came running. I couldn’t understand anything he was saying, but yes, she was alright.”
Dupree said he was grateful for the stranger’s help and said people needn’t think he’s some kind of highway hero now.
“I just think that’s what we should do as people is stop,” Dupree said. “No one really stopped. If she had gone into that gorge – what if it had been at night? Nobody would have known. The only thing preventing them from going into the gorge were the rails. Exactly there.”
He said he didn’t think the driver didn’t recognize him as a famous football player, but Beesley did.
“He was the first person I called,” Dupree said. “He introduced himself and I said, ‘I’m Marcus Dupree.’ He took a step back and said, “Who? What?’ I said yes. I’m Markus.” He was like, hey, can we take some photos? So we take photos at the edge of the freeway.”
Dupree took the college football world by storm as a true freshman in 1982 when he rushed for 1,144 yards and 14 touchdowns for Barry Switzer’s Oklahoma Sooners in just over half a season of full-time action. Dupree was the No. 1 recruit in the nation from Philadelphia, MS, and his talent helped convince Switzer to deviate from his traditional wishbone offense.
Dupree started the 1983 season as the Heisman Trophy leader, but by midseason he was absent, homesick, and lured away by false promises from a family friend. He suffered a severe concussion in the Texas game, drove home to Mississippi for the weekend and never returned to Norman. Dupree attempted to play in the original United States Football League and had a brief stint with the Los Angeles Rams, but never fully recovered from a serious knee injury sustained in the USFL.
In 2010, Dupree was the subject of an ESPN film 30 for 30 directed by Jonathan Hock entitled The Best That Never Was.
Regardless of his fame or standing, Beesley said he was grateful Dupree was there.
“Based on what Marcus told me, what he saw, she hit the back end of that semi and then rolled — he said three times,” Beesley said. “Basically, it’s amazing every time someone walks away from a crash like this. A wonder.
“Tell you what, he was a super nice guy. Very impressive. Very impressive. And that he stopped and helped was even more. He could have just kept going. But he did not do it. He saw it. He told me, ‘I was a little nervous when I first stepped on it.’ And I think everyone would be. You see a car roll over three times at 75 mph and wonder what you fix to walk on it. You know? Even full-time or volunteer people are experienced, that’s certainly something you remember when you come across something like that.”
Dupree said he won’t forget that anytime soon.
“It was something to see, I can tell you.”