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Bradford: The other Heisman guy

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IRVING, Texas – Earlier this year, quarterback Sam Bradford passed up an NFL contract worth about $40 million so he could return to Oklahoma and attempt to win a national championship.

Granted, Bradford's decision wasn't made while performing circumcisions in the Philippines, but that still makes him a pretty good story.

Bradford didn't visit any prisons this summer to give lectures about religion, but as an active member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, he spoke about his beliefs to several church groups in the Oklahoma City area.

That's admirable.

Isn't it?

The collective foaming of the mouth about Bradford hasn't been big enough to warrant questions about his sex life, so he isn't hearing praise about his decision to abstain from intercourse until marriage.

Instead, Florida's Tim Tebow is the quarterback sunbathing under that microscope, which is fine with Bradford.

"To me," Bradford said Tuesday, "that's crossing the line."

Bradford's right. The media has crossed the line. Not just with the sex questions, but with this entire Tebow lovefest that, frankly, is becoming so over-the-top that the people rooting for Tebow to fail might outnumber the ones hoping for him to succeed.

It's sad, but Tim Tebow is becoming the Tyler Hansbrough of college football. There are zillions of reasons why you should love him, but instead we continue to force the opposite reaction by molding him into this annoying, holier-than-thou figure that's impervious to imperfection.

It's annoying and it's irresponsible.

Television announcers activate viewers' gag reflexes and force them to hit the mute button by saying their "lives are better" because they spent five minutes with Tim Tebow. Lee Corso embarrasses himself in front of a national audience by fawning over Tebow during an interview with his parents. Sportswriters who apparently never have heard of Tommie Frazier, Sammy Baugh, Davey O'Brien, John Elway or Roger Staubach suggest that Tebow is the best quarterback in the history of college football.

It's outlandish.

Tebow isn't the best quarterback in the history of college football. Shoot, he wasn't the best quarterback last season. Sam Bradford was – and he will be this year, too.

Bradford won the Heisman Trophy in 2008 and – just as he would've been last spring – will likely be the first player taken in the 2010 NFL draft. But when the preseason All-Big 12 team was announced earlier this week, he was not a unanimous first-team selection.

Imagine that: The winner of the most prestigious award in college football comes back for another season and he isn't even a unanimous first-team selection in his own league!

Instead of attempting to find out who cast the peculiar votes, writers at this week's Big 12 Media Days did nothing.

But at last week's SEC media gathering in Hoover, Ala., you would've thought the greatest injustice in the history of mankind occurred when one coach [South Carolina's Steve Spurrier] failed to put Tebow on his first-team ballot. It was one of the top stories on television for two days, yet somehow no one mentioned that Mississippi's Jevan Snead – the player on Spurrier's ballot – actually beat Florida in 2008 and is projected to go higher than Tebow in next summer's NFL draft.

That's not to say that Snead deserved the nod over Tebow, but was the vote really outlandish enough to evoke such a firestorm?

The guess here is that Tebow is starting to get a little embarrassed by all of this. College football is fortunate to have a strong ambassador who relishes the chance to spread a positive message to fans. But Tebow probably realizes there are other "good guys" – and good quarterbacks – in college football, and that the constant gushing over him is causing their stories to be overshadowed.

Guys such as Texas' Colt McCoy who, even with a pinched nerve in his shoulder, makes every Sunday church service in Austin. Guys such as Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson, an active speaker with FCA, and Baylor's Robert Griffin, who graduated No. 7 in his senior class.

Guys such as Bradford, who said he doesn't envy Tebow or the attention he receives.

"I feel for him," Bradford said. "He's been in it a lot longer than I have. He's been in the spotlight since high school. I couldn't imagine having to deal with some of the things he's had to deal with the past couple of years."

Every now and then Bradford gets a dose of what Tebow's life must feel like. He said he's leery of going out in Norman because it's so easy for people to snap pictures of him with their camera phones when he isn't looking.

Recently he was having dinner with friends when a couple approached them and laid their newborn baby out across the table.

"They asked me to sign his [onesie]," Bradford said, chuckling. "It's been different. It's something I've had to get used to.

"If it was up to me, I'd be able to go somewhere and sit in the corner with a hat on and no one would notice me."

Bradford paused.

"Not that I'm complaining," he said. "The last three years have been three of the best years of my life. If I didn't like it in Norman, I wouldn't have come back. I love being in Norman, and I love being the quarterback. I'm basically living my dream right now."

And the good news is that it's still fun to watch him do it.

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