MIAMI — Even at age 92, noted Oklahoma sports artist and sculptor Jay O’Meilia thinks he can improve.
“I think of the next one and always think ‘I can improve off that,’” O’Meilia said prior to Sunday’s unveiling of a University of Oklahoma themed work that prominently displays Steve Owens in his No. 36 jersey bulling ahead with the football.
The showing was part of a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Owens winning the Heisman Trophy as a senior at OU.
Owens and his wife, Barbara, were on hand for the unveiling that was part of an autograph session held in conjunction with the Northeast Oklahoma Holiday Market and Expo at the Civic Center.
“This is one of my favorites, because it’s Steve,” O’Meilia said.
“It is special,” said Owens, a 1965 graduate of Miami High School. “It is a collage of me playing football, even on special teams. Today, everybody is a specialist, but when I played at OU, I played on offense and all the special teams. Part of this is me making a tackle.
“Most folks, when they think of me, it’s running the football. This is a special thing.”
O’Meilia has helped preserve the Sooner legacy through his artwork, dating back to the days of Bud Wilkinson.
He attended his first Oklahoma-Texas game in 1950.
“They talk about Notre Dame, they talk about Alabama and so forth, but the legacy at OU with what they have accomplished, they have set the foundation for what is going on now,” O’Meilia said. “Bud started it, Barry continued it on then Bob Stoops.”
One of his better known works is “Moment of Victory,” depicting Uwe Von Schamann’s 42-yard field goal with six seconds left that helped the Sooners stun No. 4 Ohio State 29-28 in 1977.
“I was at the end zone and had a 100- degree fever. I was sicker than a dog, but if I was going to die, I wanted to be down there,” he joked.
O’Meilia asked head coach Barry Switzer if they could recreate the moment the following Thursday when the team worked on the kicking game.
“He said ‘you want to do what?’ and I showed him the sketch I had done,” O’Meilia said. “He asked ‘where did you get that?’ and I said I had done it about 45 minutes after that kick.
“He staged it for me with the same blocking assignments and the one kid from Ohio State that broke through,” O’Meilia said.
While there, a photographer from Sports Illustrated arrived and accused O’Meilia of cribbing from his photo of the event.
“Son, this was done 45 minutes after that kick — we caught the same moment, but that is mine, ‘O’Meilia said. “He said ‘well, OK.’ He was really ticked off that I copied his photograph.”
In addition to his sports artwork, he has done a lot of oil industry themed paintings.
His work is on display around the world and in the United States as well as several locations in Oklahoma City.
He did an artwork of Wilkinson coming down the tunnel prior to an OU-Texas game and he’s got a similar project that centers on Switzer coming down the tunnel with players behind them as well as the Heisman and Outland Trophy winners.
Also in the works is a sculpture of former Sooner basketball great Wayman Tisdale, who went on to become a noted jazz musician.
“He was a great basketball player, playing 12 years in the pros, but he was a helluva jazz musician,” O’Meilia said. “I am doing a composite, playing his guitar, making a field goal and with that wonderful smile of his.”