STILLWATER, Okla. — In 1945, Oklahoma State was known as Oklahoma A&M. The athletic nickname was “Aggies.” The star of the football team that season was nicknamed the “Blond Bomber.”
Bob Fenimore, a blond-haired standout from Woodward, excelled in all three phases of the game — offense, defense and special teams. He became the Aggies’ first All-American the season before, and he earned the consensus accolade two straight years at that.
Fenimore, the No. 1 draft pick of the 1947 NFL draft, died Wednesday at his Stillwater home, Oklahoma State announced. He was 84.
The cause of death was not immediately known.
“Bob Fenimore will never be forgotten,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said in a release. “He may have been the most dominant player in America during his years in Stillwater. He is still listed in our record books (more than) 60 years after he played. He truly is a legend.”
Fenimore led the nation with 1,758 total yards and was third in rushing with 899, while leading the Aggies to an 8-1 record and a 34-0 win over TCU in the Cotton Bowl. Fenimore, a tailback, ran for two touchdowns and 63 yards, completed 6-of-13 passes for 136 yards and punted five times for a 28.8-yard average.
In 1987, Fenimore told a newspaper that the Aggies’ game at Tulsa on Oct. 28, 1944, was the one that “put OSU on the map, so to speak.” It was A&M’s only Missouri Valley Conference game of the season, and A&M won 46-40.
“We hadn’t gotten a whole lot of national recognition up until that point,” Fenimore said. “We hadn’t played anyone of Tulsa’s caliber. That’s when we found out we had a few guys who could play. We didn’t have a lot of depth, but we had 15 or 16 guys who really liked to play football.”
The next year, he led the nation in total offense again with 1,641 yards, 1,119 of the rushing. More importantly, he carried A&M to a 9-0 record, including a 33-13 victory over St. Mary’s (Calif.) in the Sugar Bowl. He was a run-and-pass threat again in New Orleans, running 25 times for 125 yards and completing 4-of-10 passes for 76 yards and a score.
Pat Quinn, former sports information director at OSU, said he and Fenimore played golf, and Fenimore hated to lose.
"Oklahoma A&M was football in Oklahoma in the middle 40s," Quinn said. "He was a very, very outstanding man. ... He embraced the entire university environment while he was here."
According to OSU, Homer Cooke of the National Collegiate Athletic Bureau called Fenimore “the greatest one-man offense in college football history.” He currently ranks third in total offense in school history, current New England Patriots quarterback Zac Robinson (10,175) and Gundy (7,749) topping the list.
“To think he still ranks third all-time at OSU in total offense behind only Mike Gundy and Zac Robinson is astounding,” OSU athletic director Mike Holder said in a statement.
“Bob Fenimore put OSU football on the map as the first in a long line of great running backs. He was a tremendous player but an even better man,” said Larry Reece, a longtime friend of Fenimore’s and executive director for major gifts at OSU. “He was a lifelong supporter of all things Cowboy. OSU athletics may have lost one of our legends, but the OSU family will never forget the Blond Bomber.”
Fenimore also was a standout defender. His 18 career interceptions are still a school record.
His achievements landed him in the College Football Hall of Fame in 1972. He also was inducted into the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame in 2007.
“The career of Bob Fenimore at Oklahoma A&M was truly historic,” Holder said. “He dominated his era and led the football program to unprecedented heights.”
He spent only one season with the Chicago Bears, according to www.pro-football-reference.com. He had 219 yards and two touchdowns on 15 receptions and one TD and 189 yards on 53 rushing attempts in 1947. Fenimore also recorded a 71-yard interception return, third-longest that season.
Fenimore also went into the life insurance business that year, accepting a position with Massachusetts Mutual in Oklahoma City. He opened a district office in Stillwater in 1953 and maintained many policyholders until 1989, according to a NewsPress story. He actually retired three years earlier.
Fenimore in October 1974 survived a severe reaction to a brain operation while attending a speech by sportscaster Heywood Hale Broun at OSU, the NewsPress also reported then. According to the story, he collapsed and struck his head on a chair. Surgeons removed a benign cyst in March that year.
Fenimore was married to Veta Jo and had two daughters, but further information about his family wasn’t immediately available.
Memorial services for Fenimore are set for 2 p.m. Saturday at First Presbyterian Church in Stillwater.
“True legends come around rarely,” Holder said. “Bob Fenimore is worthy of that label.”
NewsPress reporter Silas Allen contributed to the story.