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.
He was the first Oklahoman to win the heisman award in 1951. After he won the Heisman, Cleveland, Oklahoma, threw him a parade, with hundreds lining the streets of the small town. Vessels, a humble, hardworking kid, told a reporter, "Can you imagine people doing a thing like this for a kid like me?”
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.