A great star on a star-studded Sooner team, Vessels scored 18 touchdowns, gained over 1,000 yards rushing and caught eight passes for 200 yards. In his senior year he threw 18 passes and completed seven for 209 yards and three touchdowns. A fierce competitor, he is best remembered for his running savagery against Notre Dame. Against the Irish, he scored three touchdowns and surged 195 yards rushing in 17 carries, for an average of 11.5 yards per carry. In 1953, Vessels turned pro for the Edmonton Eskimos and won the Schenley Award as the top player in Canada. Billy then served as an officer in the U.S. Army before spending one year with the Baltimore Colts in 1956. In 1957, Vessels moved to Florida and became assistant to the president of Mackle Company, a major real estate developer. Billy has been active in fund raising, alumni association work, and has served on President Kennedy's Physical Fitness Program for two years. Billy passed away on 17 November 2001 after a long illness.
Billy was elected to the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame in 1974.
The voting board was expanded to 1,222 media members for this Heisman election and a total of 162 players received votes. Vessels won in the South and Southwest and became the first player from what was then the Missouri Valley Conference to win the Heisman.