John Blake

Former Oklahoma coach John Blake fields questions during press conference on Sept. 16, 1997.

John Blake, Oklahoma's first and only Black head football coach in program history, has died. He was 59.

Blake, who played at OU from 1979-82 and coached the team from 1996-98, died of a heart attack while on a walk. News 9's Dean Blevins first reported the news Thursday afternoon. The Transcript later confirmed Blake's death via his former head coach Barry Switzer.

OU hired Blake as the program's first Black head football coach ever in 1996 and the program's 20th head coach overall.

Blake was just 35 years old when he accepted the OU head coaching position. He went 12-22 as the Sooners' coach over three seasons.

Blake was known for his recruiting efforts, which influenced OU's 2000 national championship-winning roster. Most notably, Blake brought former Butkus Award winner Rocky Calmus and NFL Pro Bowl safety Roy Williams to Norman.

Blake's biggest win arguably was his first as OU's head coach. His first OU team in 1996 went into its game against Texas winless and emerged with a 30-27 overtime win. The contest marked the Big 12 Conference's first ever overtime game in league history.

OU finished the season 3-8. It's other two wins came at Baylor a week after beating Texas and against Oklahoma State in Stillwater on Nov. 9, 1996.

Blake was born March 6, 1961, in Rockford, Illinois. He joined OU's football program in 1979, lettering four times at noseguard on Switzer's teams.

Blake transitioned to coaching following his playing career in 1987. He landed an assistant role with Tulsa, coaching tight ends and receivers. He then spent four seasons as an OU assistant under then-head coach Gary Gibbs.

Blake left OU to become the Dallas Cowboys' defensive line coach. He was a part two Super Bowl champion squads (XXVIII, XXX) as an assistant to Jimmy Johnson and Switzer.

Joe Buettner is the Norman Transcript's sports editor. You can contact him at 405-366-3580 or jbuettner@normantranscript.com. Follow him on Twitter, @ByJoeBuettner.

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