Postgame: Roy Stuart Jr.
Early stalwart of Golden Hurricane football
After years playing college and professional football, University of Tulsa Hall of Famer Roy Stuart Jr. resides in Tulsa and still follows the teams for which he played.
Born in Shawnee, Okla., in 1920, Roy Stuart Jr. is still going strong at age 92.
The former University of Tulsa football star, former NFL player, World War II veteran and successful businessman has many stories to share.
Although too modest to acknowledge his many accomplishments, a plaque in the TU Hall of Fame — to which he was named in 1993 — summarizes his contributions to Golden Hurricane football:
“Roy Stuart — Was an outstanding guard who played both offense and defense for the Golden Hurricane. Had the speed, quickness and agility to make him a tremendous player. A three-year varsity member and two-year starter, he played on Tulsa’s first bowl team (at the 1941 Sun Bowl) and was voted the game’s Most Outstanding Lineman. Was selected to TU’s All-50 Year Golden Hurricane football team in 1945.”
TulsaPeople recently visited with Stuart about his storied athletic career.
After playing high school football at Shawnee, how did you end up playing at TU?
I actually wanted to go to OU to play football, but they didn’t select me at that time. So, I went to TU and my sophomore year, I missed lettering by one minute, and I was really upset. So, I called a friend at OU and he told me to come on down and work out for OU during spring practice.
But we had it much better at TU with better football facilities, better dorms and better food. (Stuart reapplied at TU the next season.) After a little bit of time at OU, I was ready to come back to TU and finished playing there.
You played in TU’s first bowl game, the 1941 Sun Bowl in El Paso, your senior season and were named the Most Outstanding Lineman in the game. That’s a nice way to top off your senior year.
Yes, but I remember that Arkansas beat us 6-0 in the last regular season game my senior year, right before we went to the Sun Bowl. That game broke our hearts.
You went on to play professional football. What was that like?
In 1942, I went to play for the Cleveland Rams (later to become the Los Angeles Rams and now the St. Louis Rams) ... I played guard on the offensive line and middle linebacker on defense. Believe it or not, I could catch a pass pretty well. The coach made me a tight end on certain plays, but the quarterback we had wouldn’t throw me the ball.
I played for the Detroit Lions in 1943 and then the Buffalo Bison (now the Buffalo Bills) in 1946 when I got out of the service.
This was during World War II. What was your branch of service?
I enlisted in the Navy. I am real lucky to be here today because I was on an aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Bunker Hill. In 1945, two Japanese suicide planes hit our ship and nearly blew us out of the water.
The carrier was damaged so badly at first we thought they were going to have to just go ahead and sink the ship, but they decided to send us back to the States for repairs ... When you go to bed at night and there’s water hitting your bunk, it’s tough. We were lucky to make it all the way.*
What was your personal highlight playing pro football?
I guess playing with Buffalo after the war. Just to be able to come back and play again after the war was great. My first year with Cleveland, I made $150 per game and my second year with the Lions, I made $175 per game. My last year with Buffalo, I made $3,300. That was real good money back then.
Your brother, Bobby Jack Stuart, was a pretty good player in his own right. Were you competitive in your younger days?
Actually, he was six years younger than me. He played Army football with Heisman Trophy winners Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis.
One time (Bobby Jack) challenged me to a footrace. We went out to the driveway and I told him, “I’m going to kick sand in your face.” But it was just the opposite — he beat me. He was a triple-threat player and had a great career playing tailback at Army.
To what do you attribute your athletic abilities?
Our mother was very athletic. Once at the state fair, she ran the 50-yard dash and won. I think our speed came from her.
What did you do after your football career?
I worked for W.K. Warren selling propane and butane. I traveled a lot and lived in about five different places.
Do you still follow football?
I still follow TU football. I don’t go to the games, but I follow them on television. I’m a strong TU fan and booster. I follow the NFL teams I played for, especially Buffalo.
*Editor’s note: During the 1945 Japanese kamikaze attack on the U.S.S. Bunker Hill, 346 sailors and airmen were killed, 43 went missing in action and 264 were wounded.