Bob Fenimore, a two-time All-American who became the top pick in the 1947 NFL draft, died Wednesday in Stillwater after a fight with cancer. He was 84.
Fenimore was a star on offense and defense for Oklahoma A&M in the 1940s, highlighted by his 1945 season when he led the nation in total offense and rushing, finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting and led the Aggies to a perfect 9-0 season.
That season, which ended with a 33-13 win against Saint Mary’s (Calif.) in the Sugar Bowl and a No. 5 ranking in the AP poll, remains the only undefeated season in the history of the school now known as Oklahoma State.
Fenimore was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1972.
“He was a great teammate and just a good Christian man that everybody liked. Bob got a lot of accolades, being an All-American as he was, but there was never anyone that didn’t think he deserved it,” Neill Armstrong, a former teammate who became lifelong friends with Fenimore, said in a telephone interview. “He was just that good.”
Fenimore’s death was confirmed Wednesday by Oklahoma State spokesman Kevin Klintworth. Services for Fenimore are planned Saturday at the First Presbyterian Church in Stillwater.
Playing tailback in the Aggies’ single-wing offense, Fenimore accumulated 1,758 yards to lead the nation in total offense in 1944 while also finishing in the top 10 in rushing (899 yards), passing (997 yards) and scoring (77 points). Nicknamed the “Blond Bomber,” he finished ninth in the Heisman voting that season.
During the undefeated season in 1945, Fenimore was the nation’s leader with 1,119 yards rushing and 1,641 yards of total offense. He ran for two touchdowns and threw for another in the Sugar Bowl, which pitted Fenimore against Herman Wedemeyer of Saint Mary’s — who finished fourth in the Heisman voting.
Army’s vaunted duo of Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis finished first and second that year.
“It’s funny how in those days the coach didn’t call plays from the sidelines or the quarterback didn’t really call the plays. I called all the plays from my left end position and I wore him out,” said Armstrong, who twice led the nation in receiving.
“It was easy to call his number because you knew he was going to be successful.”
Fenimore, from Woodward, was also an accomplished punter and defensive back. His 18 career interceptions remain a school record.
His 4,627 career yards of total offense stood in the OSU record book for more than four decades, until the mark was broken by Mike Gundy in the 1980s and then by quarterback Zac Robinson last year.
“Bob Fenimore will never be forgotten,” said Gundy, a former quarterback who is now the Cowboys’ head coach. “He may have been the most dominant player in America during his years in Stillwater. He is still listed in our record books nearly 60 years after he played. He truly is a legend.”
Fenimore and Armstrong enrolled on the same day in 1943 and formed a tradition of shaking hands before each kickoff — with Armstrong serving as the kicker and Fenimore holding the ball in place. The image remains familiar to some OSU fans decades later.
“It was just a natural thing,” Armstrong said, adding that he has a picture of one of the handshakes in his Dallas-area home. “I guess it was because we were always together there when we were kicking the ball off.”
They’d team up to create one of the most successful stretches in school history, along with a lifelong friendship.
In recent years, Armstrong and his wife would travel from the Dallas area to watch their grandson, Cole Farden, play for Oklahoma State and stay with Fenimore and his wife.
Earlier this month, Armstrong was in the state for a wedding and was able to spend a few hours with his friend, who was battling cancer.
“He was respected by everybody all of the days that I knew him, as a college athlete and then afterwards, too,” Armstrong said. “Bob always had a great sense of humor. He liked to laugh, and he was just a lot of fun to be around.”