GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Gulfport GridIron Club has a strong list of speakers this year and on Monday former Oklahoma Sooners running back Marcus Dupree added his name to the solid lineup.
You could say Dupree had a controversial college career, leaving Oklahoma during his sophomore season. He says injuries took a toll on his college and pro careers.
"I had a bad knee injury," Dupree explained. "I knew one day something like that would come because of my size and the way I ran the ball, the speed and always taking the licks." He added, "Being a running back you kind of expect injuries so you have to get every inch you can and enjoy the glamour while you can."
Dupree was an exceptional athlete at Philadelphia High School in Mississippi. As a freshman in 1978 the speedster who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds played wide receiver. He scored 5 touchdowns and added 7 more TDs on kick and punt returns.
In 1979 he was switched to running back. Turned out to be a brilliant move. He would rumble for 1,850 yards and 28 touchdowns.
In his junior season, Dupree added 1,150 yards rushing with 20 touchdowns and added 4 TDs on five kick returns.
As a senior in 1981, Dupree was clocked in 4.3 seconds in the 40 yard dash. Exceptional for a big running back. Combining speed and power, Dupree rushed for 1,955 yards with 26 touchdowns. Marcus broke the national high school record for touchdowns with 87. Herschel Walker had totaled 86.
Every major college in the nation wanted his services and he eventually signed with Oklahoma.
In 1982 Dupree didn't start a game until midway through his freshman season. When Sooners coach Barry Switzer finally gave him the football, Dupree responded with four 100-yard rushing games. He would finish the season with 905 yards and 10 touchdowns. He averaged 7.0 yards per carry.
In the 1983 Fiesta Bowl, Dupree and his Oklahoma teammates lost to Arizona State, but Dupree was named the games MVP. He rushed for 239 yards on 17 carries. He accomplished the feat in playing only half the game, due to various injuries.
His life would change during his sophomore season. He played in only three games and quit after the Sooners 4th game of the season. He and coach Switzer had their differences. Switzer said Dupree had a terrible work ethic during the off season and the two just didn't get along. He still rushed for 369 yards on 61 carries and 3 touchdowns in those three games.
Dupree told me he has mixed feelings when looking back at his time at Oklahoma. I asked him if he had any regrets. He responded saying, "My mom wanted me to go back."
He said he did have one regret, "Not winning the National Championship with the guys, like Keith Jackson and Brian Bosworth and Spencer Tillman. That's why I went to Oklahoma, to win a National Championship."
Dupree left Oklahoma and enrolled at Southern Miss. When the NCAA ruled that he would have to sit out the 1984 season, he left Hattiesburg after three months.
At 19-years-old Dupree inked a six-million dollar deal with the New Orleans Breakers of the USFL. He would gain 684 yards on 145 carries with 9 touchdowns. Injuries took a toll. He shared the running back duties with Buford Jordan who later signed on with the New Orleans Saints.
The Breakers moved to Porltand, Oregon in 1985 and Dupe became the starting running back but he severely injured his knee after gaining 69 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown during the first game of the season. His USFL career was over.
Dupree tried out with Tampa Bay of the NFL during the strike and failed the physical. Walter Payton encouraged Dupree to try out with another NFL team in 1990. He signed with the L.A. Rams. He would complete the season with 72 yards rushing. In gained 179 yards in 1991 and in 1992 Dupree was cut by the Rams during the preseason.
Dupree says he works for a company in Pascagoula and says a friend of his is interested in reviving the USFL.
"A friend of mine hit me up on face book, a guy named Michael Dryer and he purchased the rights to the league and is bringing back the rights to the USFL," Dupree explained. He added, "Dryer is trying to bring a team to Jackson, Mississippi. And it just so happens a guy I work with and work for at HSI over in Pascagoula is interested in buying the team."
Dupree could once again be involved with the USFL after 26 years.