McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK


June 19, 2010

Former pro football player from Wilburton helped put AFL on the map


It was the fabulous and fantastic 1950’s. Wilburton was similar to Mayberry, U.S.A. High school football was king and senior Duane Wood had finished his high school football in grand style.

He was a member of Wilburton’s 1955 Senior Class and had played high school football since he was a sophomore.

“I weighed in at 185 pounds and played halfback for the Diggers,” Wood said. “I didn’t play football until I was a sophomore. After graduation, I was ready for college football and had been contacted by several colleges.

“I chose to go to Oklahoma A&M College, now Oklahoma State. I played halfback for the Aggies,” he remembered. “One of the most memorable things about college football was a bowl game we played in. It was 1958 and I was a senior.

“We were invited to a bowl game in Louisville, Ky.,” Wood continued. “They called it the ‘Blue Grass Bowl.’ We played the Florida State Seminoles. It was so cold, the field was frozen solid just like cement. We had to wear our basketball shoes to get any traction at all. I scored a touchdown and we won the game.”

Good things kept happening to the halfback from Wilburton.

“Two weeks later, I was chosen to play on the Blue Team in the Blue and Gray Game, in Montgomery, Alabama,” he said. “I ran back a punt for a touchdown and was fortunate enough to be named the Outstanding Player of the bowl game.”

It wasn’t long before another great thing happened in Wood’s life. In November of 1957, he married his high school sweetheart, Saundra Callahan.

“I didn’t wait for the National Football league to draft. I signed with the Hamilton Pro Football Team in Ontario, Canada in 1959,” Wood recalled. “That was the year we played in  the Eastern Division against Winnipeg and lost. In the1960 season, we had great expectations, but lost 10 of 11 games. Players were leaving and new ones were coming all the time.  I was released.

“In 1962 I joined the Dallas Texans Pro Football Team in the newly organized American Football League,” he went on.  “Lamar Hunt, a Texas millionaire, had organized the new Football League in 1959 in Dallas. He then put together a football team and called it the Dallas Texans of which I was glad to be on the team.”

Wood said that since the American Football League was newly born, it got no respect at all. The Dallas Texans were equally written off. Then the Texans surprised their foes – they started winning.

On Nov. 18, 1962, with first place on the line, the Dallas Texans met the Denver Broncos on their turf at Bears Stadium. Wood and three more Dallas backs were taking care of their business. The Texans won the game and were now in sole possession of first place in the west.

They held first place until the regular season ended. That set up the first real “Battle for Texas” as they faced the Houston Oilers on Dec. 23. It was a hard-fought game, which went into two quarters of overtime. In the second overtime, Texans’ Tommy Brooker kicked for a 25-yard sudden death field goal. The 37,981 fans were holding their collective breaths, when they saw the referee’s arms go skyward – everyone knew the Texans had won the first championship for the young and under-rated American Football League. Final score was 20-17 and the 25 yard field goal kick was the longest in professional football history.

“I caught a pass in the game, but I can’t remember catching it,” Wood said. Even if he can’t remember catching the pass, being part of the team that won the AFL Championship was probably the pinnacle of his career.

The Texans did not have too long to enjoy their victory. The following year, 1963, the Kansas City Chiefs made an offer that Lamar Hunt couldn’t resist. They purchased the Texans and they became the Kansas City Chiefs.

“I played there through the 1963 and 1964 seasons,” he said. “At the end of the 1964 season, my family and I moved back to Wilburton. Saundra and I now had two daughters, Deanna and Cheryl. I thought my football career was over, but it wasn’t.”

Wood said in August of 1965, he got a call from Neil Armstrong, head coach for Edmonton, Canada’s pro football team. He and his family drove straight through, all 2,200 miles, in two days and two nights. He played one season there and retired again in 1965.

“We came back to Wilburton and I went to work for Kiamichi Electric Cooperative, Inc.,” he explained. “Later I became the manager. Saundra and I had a great 47 years together. She passed away Nov. 26, 2004. I have four grandchildren, Laura and Hayley Myers; Jacob and Jaimie Downing. We attend the Methodist Church.”

Those grandchildren are very proud of their grandfather’s pro football career and will tell anyone about it that hasn’t heard about it. They come to visit him often.

“I signed my first football contract for $10,000,” Wood said, reflecting on his football career. “I think back then we football players enjoyed playing more than the football players do today, even if they do make millions. Some teams I played for only had three coaches. Now some teams have enough coaches to have a football team.”

“During my entire football career I never had one broken bone, but I did have two hip replacements, and a by-pass surgery. Now rheumatoid arthritis has got me using a walker,” he explained.

Wood, however, does not let his disability keep him from enjoying life, family and friends.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • HallofFameBraves.jpg Hall of Fame adds businesslike Braves, Frank Thomas, managers La Russa and Torre

    Atlanta Braves pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, and their manager, Bobby Cox, dominated much of baseball during the 1990s. This weekend they went into the Hall of Fame together.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Media days hot topic, 'Final Four'

    Never have the words “Final Four” been used so often at a football media gathering.

    July 22, 2014

  • 20110929_bowling.jpg Why fewer people go bowling

    Like other industries facing tough economic times, America's bowling centers are trying to reinvent themselves.

    July 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Square logo.jpg King James of Akron returns to his Cleveland Kingdom

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Why North Korean cheerleaders may soon descend on the South

    When you think of North Korea, "cheerleaders" may not be the first thing that springs to mind. The Hermit Kingdom is perhaps better known for less savory things like gulag-like labor camps and leadership purges.

    July 9, 2014

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg U.S. loss on World Cup pitch was a win back home

    Exuberant fans - even those who couldn't tell you what offsides means - cheered on the U.S. men's national team during the World Cup in Brazil. Are those fans excited enough to keep watching soccer now that the United States has been eliminated?

    July 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Baseball should reinstate Pete Rose

    There's no question that Pete Rose's credentials as a player qualify him for baseball's Hall of Fame. Now, 25 years after he was banished for gambling on games, Charlie Hustle should be allowed back in baseball, presumably to take his place in Cooperstown.

    June 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • 1065.jpg The end of 'Redskins?' Social media reacts to trademark cancellation

    The United States Patent and Trademark Office has canceled the trademarks of the Washington Redskins on the basis that it is "disparaging to Native Americans.” Reaction to the decision was, predictably, divided and intense. Here is a sampling from Twitter and YouTube.

    June 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mexican drug lord arrested at World Cup

    Jose Diaz-Barajas, 49, was arrested at Rio de Janeiro's Tom Jobim airport Monday night as he boarded a plane to Fortaleza, where Mexico played Brazil Tuesday, Luiz Cravo Dorea, head of international cooperation at the Federal Police, said. The world soccer governing body, FIFA, had informed police that Diaz- Barajas, who was accompanied by his wife and two children, held tickets, Dorea said.

    June 20, 2014

  • Donald Sterling needs to go away

    Whether it happens due to a quick settlement or a likely longer trial, Clippers owner Donald Sterling just needs to go away.

    June 19, 2014


Do you agree with the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision?

     View Results
AP Video
Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground
NDN Video
GMA: Dog passes out from excitment to see owner "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1" Trailer is Here! Chapter Two: Designing for Naomi Watts Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Florida Keys Webcam Captures Turtles Hatching Morgan Freeman Sucks Down Helium on 'Tonight Show' Robin Wright Can Dance! (WATCH) She's Back! See Paris Hilton's New Carl's Jr. Ad Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.