The “You” was Laura watching an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary The Best That Never Was in December. The “Me” was me in 1983 working in the Phoenix/Tempe area. The “Marcus Dupree” was arguably the most explosive running back college football had seen in a long time.
As a freshman, Dupree electrified the football season with his amazing runs for the Oklahoma Sooners. Despite all Dupree’s greatness and electrifying runs, the Sooners struggled and found themselves playing in the 1983 Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day while Big 8 winner Nebraska was playing in the Orange Bowl.
Before the game, long-time Daily Oklahoman photographer Jim Argo and I had a great reunion. As kickoff neared, Argo told me to head to the far end zone, “Don’t worry, Marcus Dupree will be there in just a minute.” Argo was correct. Durpree arrived very quickly.
Dupree went on to set a Fiesta Bowl rushing record that still stands today. Overweight and frequently injured, the personally troubled Dupree ran for 239 yards on only 17 carries. That averages to a bit over 14 yards a carry – a remarkable performance.
While I was shooting a KU women’s game this December, Laura texted me saying she thought she had just seen me on TV. As Dupree broke free down the sideline on his final long run, she had indeed seen me with my trusty Nikkor 600 mm lens in hand rising up to photograph Dupree as he ran past me with my “Saturday Night Special” at my eye.
That photographic pop gun was a Nikon FM2 with motor and a 50mm lens pre-focused and taped to a focal spot just inside the playing field. It was the perfect setup for the Dupree run. That simple little setup has made many great photographs for me over the years. I began to use it so long ago my first camera for it was a Nikon F. I still wonder why more photographers don’t use it properly.
In the first ten years of my career covering Kansas and Kansas State football, photographing bowl games never happened for me. That is why the Fiesta Bowl will always be very special. Even when that game was played on Christmas Day, I loved the opportunity to shoot the game while working in Arizona. With so many of my friends cold and bundled back in Kansas, being on the sidelines in Tempe was always a special treat. That is why my reply to Laura’s text was, “Did I look tan?”
Tonight, we’ll be watching the Fiesta Bowl with Laura cheering for Oklahoma. I’ll remember just how great Dupree had been that day long ago. I also will be wishing I was there on the sidelines again.