Former Tulsa Football Star Eddie Dukes Wins Jim Thorpe Sports Excellence Award

Photo courtesy The University of Tulsa
HURRICANE LINEMAN: TU nose guard Eddie Dukes helped Tulsa to a 9-2 bowl-winning season in 1964,

GTR Sports Writer

When you think of the 1964 University of Tulsa football team, the names of Jerry Rhome and Howard Twilley come to mind. They were part of a stellar passing attack for the Golden Hurricane’s Bluebonnet Bowl championship squad that year.
Another major element was Eddie Dukes, a nose guard who anchored a stout defense, helping TU to a 9-2 record and a 14-7 win against Ole’ Miss in their bowl game.
Dukes, a Choctaw nation member, recently won the Jim Thorpe Sports Excellence Award and was honored at the Dream Keepers 21st Annual Awards Banquet last November, an event held by the City of Tulsa and the Greater Tulsa Area Indian Affairs Commission. He won the awards based on his service as a coach and a teacher in the community.

Courtesy photo
JIM THORPE WINNER: Eddie Dukes, who recently won the Jim Thorpe Sports Excellence Award, played nose tackle on TU’s 1964 Bluebonnet Bowl team.

Recently, Dukes watched his two grandsons at a football camp at TU coordinated by coach Philip Montgomery. He shared some of his memories of his senior season.
Dukes grew up in Talahina, near the Kiamichi Mountains and was all-conference standout in football, baseball and track in high school. He went into the Air Force right after graduation.
Dukes played as a running back and linebacker in high school, so when finished up his time in the armed forces, he attempted to walk-on as a fullback in 1960 at Oklahoma State.
“I had visions of being a fullback. I weighed only 200 pounds and had four years of experience lifting weights. So I had some strength,” Dukes said. “But some coaches came up and said ‘Dukes, you would probably succeed more at line than a running back in the backfield.’ So, I said ‘okay. I’ll move up to the line.’ The minute I moved up to the line, I was third or fourth-team fullback.”
Within two days of practice, Dukes was on the second team on the line. “So I decided that this is where I’m going to have to be if I’m going to play,” he said.
The next year, Dukes played at Eastern State College in Wilburton. He arrived at TU in 1962, but had to redshirt when he incurred an injury.
Eventually, that memorable campaign of ‘64 came.
“Here I am at the line, I’m 5-11, 235, and was better off at the middle (nose guard),” Dukes said. “People had a hard time getting between my legs because I was so short, and being stout enough, I was hard to block. “So that was a natural place for me. They couldn’t get to my knees, so they double-teamed me. I didn’t make many tackles, but, they couldn’t move me off the line either.”
Dukes loved being double-teamed.
TU opened the season against Arkansas in Fayetteville.
“As far as the environment of playing football, that Razorback Stadium was hard to beat when we were playing. It was an exciting game,” Dukes said.
The Hurricane had a 14-7 advantage at halftime, but wound up losing 31-22.
“We just made a couple of bloopers,” Dukes said.
That Arkansas team, which had Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson as members and Barry Switzer as an assistant coach, would go on to win a share of the national championship.
TU won its next three games, including a 58-0 romp on the road against Louisville. Then came a heartbreaking 28-23 setback at Cincinnati.
“Cincinnati slipped by us,” Dukes said. “The story of that game was, we were on the two-yard line and Rhome threw a pass to Twilley in the closing seconds and the whistle blew. All the players would tell you that. We would have won the game had we had another play.
“We were moving down the field and we thought we were going to win the game and the clock ran out on us,” Dukes added.
TU would not lose again that year. A significant moment came when the Hurricane dismantled Oklahoma State, 61-14, at home.
“What stands out about OSU is their fans,” Dukes said. “They were all around the field. It got so crowded that (Coach Glenn) Dobbs said on record that he could have sold 50,000 seats that day. The stadium held over 25,000 back then.”
Dukes believes that one way his TU career benefits him today is the discipline he learned. One team that stands out to him the most is the 2010 squad because of its win at Notre Dame. 
“I think of those players on that team,” he said. “They get to say ‘I played for a team that beat Notre Dame.’ No one can ever take that away.”
As for the Tulsa teams of today, Dukes is optimistic.
“I’m appreciative of the head coach (Montgomery) here,” he said. “I think he really cares about kids. He has demonstrated and shown to a lot of us that he genuinely cares about children. He’s had his struggles here. He’s struggling now to win. But he knows how to handle kids. He can get on you, but he also knows when to pat you on the back.”

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