Marcus Dupree was born on 22 May 1964, in Philadelphia, Neshoba County. He achieved national attention as a running back at Philadelphia High School, where he gained 5,283 rushing yards and scored a national record eighty-seven touchdowns from 1978 to 1981. Coaches from the most storied college football programs in the country recruited Dupree, and he chose to attend the University of Oklahoma. Mississippi-born author Willie Morris captured the excitement of Dupree’s final high school season and the fervor surrounding his recruitment in The Courting of Marcus Dupree (1983), which argued that Dupree’s gridiron performance created a bond between whites and blacks in racially polarized Philadelphia. Morris described Dupree’s high school ability and his potential for future greatness as the “Marcus Legend.”
As a freshman at Oklahoma, Dupree did not start until his seventh game but still rushed for 1,144 yards. His breakout performance came during his sophomore year at the 1983 Fiesta Bowl, where he ran for 239 yards and won the game’s Most Valuable Player Award despite leaving the contest early in the third quarter with an injury. The effort established a school record for rushing yards in a bowl game.
Because of his turbulent relationship with Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer, Dupree transferred to the University of Southern Mississippi before his sophomore season ended. However, he never played a down for Southern Miss and entered the experimental United States Football League in 1984. Dupree rushed for 684 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie for the New Orleans Breakers but suffered a devastating knee injury in his initial season. Similar injuries plagued the remainder of Dupree’s career. He was drafted in 1986 by the National Football League’s Los Angeles Rams and finally made it to the league in 1990, carrying the ball sixty-eight times for 251 yards and two touchdowns over two seasons. After his retirement from football, Dupree worked as a professional wrestler, general manager of an Arena Football League team, and a scout for the Washington Redskins. In 2010 Dupree was the subject of an ESPN documentary, The Best That Never Was. He is still best known for the athleticism and seemingly limitless potential that he demonstrated at Philadelphia High.
- Jonathan Hock, The Best that Never Was (2010, Documentary)
- Willie Morris, The Courting of Marcus Dupree (1983)