Marcus Dupree

Marcus Dupree
Marcus Dupree
Date of birth: May 22, 1964 (1964-05-22) (age 47)
Place of birth: Philadelphia, Mississippi
Career information
Position(s): Running back
College: Oklahoma
NFL Draft: 1986 / Round: 12 / Pick 327
 As player:

New Orleans Breakers/Portland Breakers (USFL)
Los Angeles Rams
Playing stats at

Marcus L. Dupree (born May 22, 1964 in Philadelphia, Mississippi) is a former American football player. He was one of the most highly recruited high school football players ever. He graduated with the first class in Philadelphia that was desegregated for the entire 12 years he went to school. He went on to play at Oklahoma, where he was named Football News Freshman of the Year, second team All-American and Big Eight Conference Newcomer of the Year, before leaving in the middle of his sophomore season and briefly attending the University of Southern Mississippi without playing a single game there. He joined the United States Football League the following season and signed with the New Orleans Breakers in 1984. He played for the Breakers (which moved to Portland, Oregon before his second season) for two seasons, before a knee injury forced him to leave the game. He returned to professional football five years later in 1990, joining the Los Angeles Rams, where he played in 15 games over two seasons, before he was waived prior to the 1992 season.

The college recruiting of Dupree was the subject of a book by Willie Morris titled The Courting of Marcus Dupree (ISBN 0878055851) and his career is the subject of an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary film, The Best That Never Was.



High school

Dupree played high school football for the Philadelphia High School Tornadoes from 1978 to 1981. As a freshman in 1978, he ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash, scored five touchdowns as wide receiver and seven more as a kickoff and punt returner,[1] including a 75-yard kickoff return touchdown on his first play in high school.[2]

As a sophomore in 1979, Dupree was switched to wide back and rushed for 1,850 yards and scored 28 touchdowns. He also played on Philadelphia High's basketball team, which finished the year with a 33-4 record and reached the semifinals of the Mississippi state basketball tournament[citation needed], and played first base and catcher for the baseball team, hitting for a .481 average.[3]

In his junior season starting in 1980, Dupree rushed for 2,550 yards and scored 34 touchdowns (25 rushing, 9 by kick return).[citation needed]

During his senior year Dupree rushed for 2,955 yards and scored 36 touchdowns. He finished his high school career with 7,355 rushing yards with an 8.3-yards-per-carry average. Dupree scored 87 touchdowns total during his playing time in high school, breaking the national high school record (set by Herschel Walker) by one.[4] In 1981, Marcus's final High School football game was played on the Choctaw Indian Resevation's tribal high school's Warriors Stadium.[5] Author Willie Morris described the audience at Dupree's final high school game as "the most distincitive crowds I had ever seen ... four thousand or so people seemed almost an equal of mix of whites, blacks, and Indians ... After Marcus scored his touchdown, Sid Salter saw Cecil Price, Sr. (who was linked with the murders of three civil rights workers in Philadelphia) who was ... 'jumping up and down and cheering as hard as anyone ... ain't that a kick in the pants?'"[6]

Dupree was heavily recruited by the major college football programs, and during the final month of the recruiting period, his high school coach, Joe Wood, answered more than 100 phone calls a day from colleges. Oklahoma assistant coach Lucious Selmon spent six weeks in the Downtown Motor Inn in Philadelphia,[7] and head coach Barry Switzer sent former Oklahoma Sooner and Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims to the town by private plane to appeal to Dupree. On February 12, 1982, Dupree announced he would attend Oklahoma instead of the other finalists, Texas, UCLA and Southern Miss.[7]


When Dupree arrived at the University of Oklahoma in 1982, head coach Barry Switzer said, "He was the best player on the field. Earl Campbell was the only other guy I ever saw who was like that -- physically ready, as a true freshman, to be the best player on a great college team. Maybe even ready for the NFL at that age."[7]

After the first three games of the season, Dupree had just twelve carries for 20 yards and the Sooners' record was 1-2.[3] For the fourth game Switzer abandoned his favored wishbone offense and made Dupree the tailback in the I formation to take advantage of his skills.[7] Dupree scored his first college touchdown against Texas on a 63-yard fake reverse.

On October 16, 1982, he ran for 158 yards against Kansas, including a 75-yard touchdown run. As a result, he was given the starting tailback position over Stanley Wilson and was named Big Eight Offensive Player of the Week.[citation needed] He made his first start against Oklahoma State and scored two touchdowns. Among all his other great runs, he also had a 77-yard punt return against Colorado, an 80-yard run against Kansas State, a 70-yard run against Missouri and an 86-yard run against Nebraska.

Despite not starting until the seventh game of the season, Dupree finished with 1,144 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. He was named second team All-American, first team all-Big Eight Conference, and Big Eight Newcomer of the Year.[7]

On January 1, 1983, Dupree's freshman season ended with a 32-21 Fiesta Bowl loss against Arizona State, in which he rushed for an Oklahoma and Fiesta Bowl record 249 yards, but was criticized by Switzer for not practicing hard and for being overweight.[7] Switzer told Dupree, "If you'd have been in shape, you'd have rushed for 400 yards, and we'd have won the game."[8]

Dupree's much-anticipated sophomore season did not turn out as planned. Hampered by injuries, Dupree gained 369 yards on 61 carries with three touchdowns in the first four games of the season. After suffering a concussion in a loss against Texas, he vanished for a week. When he resurfaced in Mississippi, he announced he was leaving OU and transferred to University of Southern Mississippi. Told that because of NCAA rules, he would have to sit out the 1984 season, he left after three months.

For every Marcus Allen, Barry Sanders or Emmitt Smith, there's an Anthony Thompson, a Paul Palmer and a LeShon Johnson, guys who never matched their college success in the NFL. Some of the unfortunate ones were too small. Others were just a step too slow. But you'll also find a select few individuals who had all the tools. They're the ones who didn't achieve NFL success for reasons of circumstance. Such was the case with Marcus Dupree, a star running back who lit the college football scene on fire as a freshman in 1982.

—Marc Connolly, ABC Sports Online[9]


Dupree was signed by the New Orleans Breakers of the United States Football League in 1984. He scored a touchdown on his first professional possession. Throughout the year, he was injured and often was on the bench watching Buford Jordan take his carries. He gained 684 yards on 145 carries with 9 touchdowns for a 4.7 yards per carry average. He had two 100-yard rushing games.

The Breakers moved to Portland, Oregon for the 1985 season. Dupree was late arriving at Breakers' training camp in San Dimas, California that season, but performed well enough to earn a starting position for the season opener at Sun Devil Stadium against the Arizona Outlaws. While carrying the ball early in the second half, his left knee was severely injured and he was taken from the field on a stretcher. In the game, he had 69 yards on 17 carries with a touchdown, but the injury ended his USFL career.

He had surgery on the knee and recuperated in Portland, celebrating his 21st birthday with friends and teammates.


Walter Payton met Dupree on some business ventures and urged him to get back into shape to try out for the NFL again in 1990. Dupree agreed and began working out, losing 100 pounds in just over three months and going back to running a 4.3 40-yard dash. In October 1990, Dupree signed with the Los Angeles Rams, who had drafted him in 1986 in case he became healthy again,[9] after a 5-and-a-half-year absence from the football field. In April that year, he asked his former USFL coach, Dick Coury, then the quarterbacks coach for the Rams, if he could work out for the team if he got into shape, and impressed Coury and head coach John Robinson enough to earn a contract. Dupree was placed on injured reserve, meaning he would have to sit out for four weeks before he could play for the Rams.[10]

On week nine of the 1990 season, Dupree made his first appearance and rushed for 22 yards on four carries, wearing number 34 in honor of Payton instead of his usual 22. He started his first game in week 16 and rushed for 42 yards on 13 carries. He finished his first NFL season with 72 yards on 19 carries, in three games played.

In 1991, Dupree missed the first seven games due to a toe injury suffered in practice. Returning in week 8, he played more often and scored his only NFL touchdown that year. He finished the season with 179 yards on 49 carries with one touchdown, in eight games played.

Before the 1992 season, Dupree led the Rams in rushing in the preseason, which included a 212-yard game in the final preseason game against the Los Angeles Raiders, but was one of the 14 players cut by coach Chuck Knox to trim the team down to the 47 player regular season roster, and retired shortly afterward.[11] Knox, who had replaced John Robinson earlier that year, had told Dupree and the press that Dupree was not versatile enough for his one-back offense. He said he preferred running backs who "were a little more well-rounded, could catch the ball coming out of the backfield and could do some of the other things besides run with the football."[12]

He finished his career with 251 yards on 68 carries during regular season play, for a 3.7 yards-per-carry average, rushing for one touchdown.

After NFL

After he was released by the Rams, he performed as a professional wrestler for the USWA in 1995, ran a sports bar and worked as a casino greeter.

His son, Marquez Dupree played as running back for Philadelphia High School and went on to sign with Alabama, before he injured his knee and left the team.

An ESPN documentary on Dupree, titled "The Best That Never Was" and directed by Jonathan Hock, premiered on November 9, 2010 as part of the 30 for 30 series of 30 films celebrating ESPN's 30th anniversary.

As of February 2011 he is running a pro wrestling promotion, Mid South Wrestling.


  1. ^ "Could Marcus Dupree make another run at pro football?". WLOX. September 27, 2010. 
  2. ^ Young, R.J. (November 9, 2010). "The story of Marcus Dupree". The Oklahoma Daily. 
  3. ^ a b Wiley, Ralph (November 15, 1982). "Back On Track With A Tailback". Sports Illustrated. 
  4. ^ Deitch, Richard (November 9, 2010). "Marcus Dupree's doc; Howard Stern's most wanted sports guests". Sports Illustrated. 
  5. ^ Morris, Willie (1999). The Courting of Marcus Dupree. pp. 291–302. Retrieved 2010-11-04. 
  6. ^ Morris, Willie (October 1, 1992). The Courting of Marcus Dupree. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 0878055851. Retrieved 2010-11-04. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Hasten, Bill (September 26, 2003). "Twenty years after leaving OU,‘people still remember me’". Tulsa World. 
  8. ^ Murphy, Austin (October 11, 2004). "The Oklahoma Kid". Sports Illustrated. 
  9. ^ a b Connolly, Marc (October 23, 2001). "Where Are They Now? Marcus Dupre". ABC Sports. Retrieved 2010-11-04. 
  10. ^ King, Peter (October 15, 1990). "Jimmy's Cowboys". Sports Illustrated. 
  11. ^ "PRO FOOTBALL; Dupree Is Taken by Surprise as Rams Let Rusher Go". The New York Times. September 1, 1992. 
  12. ^ Kawakami, Tim (September 1, 1992). "Dupree Goes Out of Style". The Los Angeles Times. 

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