I was there, and I’ve never seen anything like it. The seas parted and the old artificial turf at Memorial Stadium was all that was separated Eric Vann from the end zone. You can watch football every Saturday and never see a run like it again. When it was all said and done, Eric had traveled 99 yards for the longest play from scrimmage in the history of Kansas football.
When it comes to Vann, it always comes back to his most famous moment in the biggest win of his senior year.Kansas relied on its defense that game against Oklahoma and Vann’s record tying run was the lone touchdown of the second half.
Highlights are here. Skip to 0:57 for the Vann run.
As amazing as it looks on video, it was even more magical from the stands as you could see exactly how much space he had in front of him. And then there’s Vann’s separation speed. Oklahoma defenders had no chance after Vann crossed the KU 10-yard line.
The date was October 4, 1997 and it was the third consecutive win for the Jayhawks over the Oklahoma Sooners.Now that sentence almost seems absurd to read, but Eric Vann went 3-1 over the Sooners and his Jayhawk teams outscored OU 124-78 in those four games.
The El Dorado, Kansas product was always a crucial part of the Kansas offense and had a solid four years on Mount Oread. His most impressive game outside of the record setter against OU was his performance in the 1995 Aloha Bowl against UCLA. Vann scored a 67-yard touchdown in KU’s impressive 51-30 win over the Bruins. Here are some highlights.
Over the course of his career, Vann ran for 1481 yards and 13 touchdowns. But, it wasn’t until that senior year in 1997 that Vann became the featured back and got the bulk of the carries in the Kansas backfield. When he arrived at KU, he was behind June Henley and L.T. Levine for the first three years. But when he became the main man, he flourished, running for 796 yards and six touchdowns. He went undrafted and never signed as a free agent in the NFL.
However, there was a sporting lifeline for Vann. He played sparingly for the Kansas baseball team in his freshman and sophomore seasons, but when his professional football dreams didn’t come true, the Kansas City Royals took a flyer on Vann and he played a few seasons of minor league baseball in the Royals organization before calling it quits after his lone season at single-A Charleston AlleyCats.
But nothing will ever replace that magical run that Vann had on that October day in Lawrence.