Billy Sims had a relatively short NFL career due to injury, but he left it all on the field, and harnessed accolades and awards along the way. The 1978 Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma after rushing for 1,896 yards and 22 touchdowns , Sims was drafted with the first pick of the 1980 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions.
The tiny dynamo took the #20 that he made so famous at OU during his college career and won NFL Rookie of the Year Honors that season, leading the NFL with 16 touchdowns (13 rushing and 3 receiving). In 1981, he’d up his numbers with 1,437 yards and another 13 TDs rushing in 14 games. While the 57 day long strike reduced Sims contribution to only 9 games, he’d still have 639 yards, and the team made the playoffs for the first time in 20+ years in 1982. Billy took the NFL by storm his first three seasons earning All-Pro honors from the NFL in each of those years. He’d have his final 1,000 yard season in 1983 rushing for 1,040 yards in 12 games. During the season he rushed for a career high 189 yards against the Packers. The one man wrecking crew was beloved by the people of Detroit, and led the Lions to its first division championship in also over 20 years.
1984 was a catastrophic season for Sims and ultimately the Lions. In the 8th game of the season against the Minnesota Vikings, Sims took a routine handoff and got his foot awkwardly caught in the Metrodome turf. Unbelievably his season was over- and the Lions spiraled out of control. The Lions were 23-11 since Sims joined the team. Without him, Detroit went the rest of the way 1-6-1 that year. Sims had ligament damage to his knee, and the injury was so severe that he failed every physical he took after rehab. As fast as Sims established himself as the Lions career leading rusher, both in yardage and touchdowns, Billy’s career was over. He was only 30.
Sims has been held with reverence since by the franchise. Detroit likes to unofficially retire jerseys from circulation for extended periods of time, and such is that, the Lions refused to issue his #20 jersey until NFL great Barry Sanders asked to wear it. Billy was also well known for his celebratory high stepping as he scored touchdowns, and his strong and creative running that allowed him to pick a hole and make 3 yard gain out of nothing. There was just about nothing Sims could do. Leaping over a pile (like in his Upper deck Legends card), or catching a pass out of the backfield. Sims averaged 11.1 yards on 186 career receptions. Despite playing only one full season in his short lived 5 year NFL tenure, Billy averaged over 1,000 yards per year.
While Sims has had a share of well publicized financial missteps much like Earl Campbell, Billy has bounced back and currently has chain of Billy Sims BBQ restaurants. He also spends time as a motivational speaker and is involved in sports marketing.
Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1995, Sims has also had his likeness immortalized as a statue on the OU campus as a Heisman Hero. His nickname was given to him by Chris Berman from ESPN, because during the highlight of a game against the Houston Oilers, Sims lept through the air over a defender and kicked cornerback Steve Brown in the head.
Billy is a wonderful signer through the mail for fans. He signed these
4 cards in less than a month for me, and also enclosed a free drink coupon for his restaurant in case I was ever in the area. You can visit his restaurant site at billysimsbbq.com.
G/Gs 60/58 Rush 1131 Yds 5106 Avg 4.5 Td 42 Lg 81t |
Rec 186 Yds 2072 Avg 11.1 Td 5 Lg 87