Vincent Orange, the most perfectly named football player in Oklahoma State history, had one of OSU’s most trying careers.
He started with Terry Miller as a freshman running back in 1977. Then he hurt both his knees and his shoulder while coaches promoted backs Worley Taylor, Ernest Anderson and Shawn Jones. His teammates respected him enough to make him captain as a fifth-year senior in 1981, but by then new coach Jimmy Johnson wanted to play younger runners to build toward the future.
Orange finally got to carry the ball again in OSU’s ’81 Independence Bowl loss to Texas A&M. He finally got to score another touchdown. Assistant coach Bob Leahy approached him in the locker room afterward.
“He tells me, ‘What you endured mentally to continue, you never wavered. You never pouted. You never came to practice with an attitude. I have some Vince Orange stories to tell the rest of my life. I just wanna know how you did it,’” Orange, now 60, recounts from his office at Sagebrush Pipeline Equipment in west Tulsa, where he is human resources manager. “I said, ‘Coach, it’s the people who raised me. You’re taught not to let the people down who put the most into you.’”
Orange was talking about his mother, Grace, who worked as a nurse, played piano at church, raised a 750-square foot apartment full of kids on Tulsa’s West 23rd Street as a single parent, and told them all things like: “You’re just as good as anyone. But when you realize that, never think that you’re better than anyone.”
Orange was also talking about his other family, the west-side community that nurtured him from the time he walked to Reed Park because that’s where you signed up to play football for Webster High School and Clinton Middle School.
“Didn’t know a soul,” Orange says.
Didn’t matter. The west side’s Blue T Sports Club got to know him. The coaches noticed Orange’s combination of size and speed. They noticed he knew right from wrong, thanks to Grace, and that he didn’t say a whole lot.
Webster football coach Mark Gibson noticed Orange. More important, he made an impression on the young man.
“We went 0-8-1 my sophomore year because we played all sophomores,” Orange says. “Coach Gibson went around to each one of us in the locker room and said, ‘Guys, this will never happen to us again as long as we go to work. We’re gonna go to work.’”
Webster basketball coach Bill Allen and athletic director J.V. Haney made impressions.
“They taught me how to act,” Orange says. “They’d tell us, ‘Win without bragging and lose without excuses.’ I didn’t hardly ever talk, but I listened.”
A strength coach by the name of Hollie Evett made an impression.
“From ninth grade he was a mentor,” Orange says. “He taught me how to lift weights and how to deal with life. He was a white guy. He said, ‘Vincent, the world’s not white, the world’s not black, the world’s just the world. I think you being at Webster would be of great help to you.’ He had a major effect on how I saw people.”
This counsel came in handy when Orange encountered a spectrum of backgrounds at OSU. He handled them all gracefully, which was how he was made captain.
That’s how Orange prefers you remember him as a Cowboy. Not for his last name or his hard luck, but how he endured from Jim Stanley to Johnson, from Miller to Anderson, and went out helping contribute to a winning season.
You won’t find any regrets in Orange’s Broken Arrow home, just a room with three framed OSU No. 48 jerseys – one white, one orange, one black – an orange-and-black OSU pool table, a few OSU game balls and several OSU action pictures.
There’s one from Orange’s Webster days on the wall as well; he’s running the ball against Sand Springs. There has to be, since without Webster or the Blue T or the west side, there are no OSU days.
The influence of those coaches and teachers, and community staples like pastor Connie Cariker of West Tulsa Free Will Baptist Church …
“So many father figures,” says Orange, who has been preaching about as long as he has been out of football and now pastors at Little Flock Baptist Church in South Coffeyville.
He appreciates them all, especially now that he will be introduced as a Tulsa Public Schools Athletics Hall of Famer Jan. 30.
He went out a winner at Webster, too, you know. Went from winless as a sophomore to the 1,000-yard Green Country Conference Player of the Year as a 1976 senior, earning an OSU scholarship along the way.
“I remember in ninth grade one of my coaches, Walt Hushbeck, said, ‘You’re gonna play college ball. You’ve got the ability to do that,’” Orange says. “He took me by himself to watch OSU play Kansas State. There was a linebacker from OSU named Cleveland Vann. He was just killing guys. 1973.
“Coach looks over to me and says, ‘You’re good enough to be down there one day.’ Four years later, I was starting fullback with Terry Miller. Had he not taken me there and planted that seed, I might not have ever believed that.
“Everything good that happened to me, God, my family and my community on the west side did it.”