Simply Sam

Jason King

Sam Bradford threw for 4,464 yards and 48 touchdowns in 2008 with just six interceptions.

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The best quarterback in college football plays the cello. Sam Bradford is also a scratch golfer – and, oh yeah, he's part Indian.

Unfortunately, that about does it, folks.

All week long, reporters have tried to uncover sexy story angles about Oklahoma's Heisman-winning quarterback. Unless something changes between now and Thursday's clash with Florida, the most interesting thing we'll know about Bradford is that he wears the same pair of socks each game.

"Actually," said Bradford, in a rare attempt at humor, "these days they're more like pieces of thread."


"Sam's not a real complicated guy," Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. "He's very unassuming. He loves football – but not always all of the attention that comes along with it."

Bradford might not relish the spotlight – but he's getting used to it. He has no choice.

As if playing quarterback at tradition-rich Oklahoma wasn't enough, Bradford is now preparing for one of the most anticipated national championship games in recent memory. Against Florida's Tim Tebow, the inconspicuous Bradford will be facing one of the most hyped, gushed-about QBs in recent memory.

Bradford is the man, but Tebow is The Man – the media darling who speaks in churches, counsels prisoners and circumcises children on mission trips to the Philippines. Tebow won the Heisman in 2007, although he's not viewed as the same caliber of pro prospect as Bradford, who could end up as the No. 1 pick in this spring's NFL draft should he choose to leave Oklahoma after his sophomore season.

"Some people want to turn this game into battle of the quarterbacks," Sooners receiver Juaquin Iglesias said. "But Sam is not getting caught up in all of that. He's a leader. His focus is on our team. I think he'll handle things just fine."

The Sooners have come to expect nothing less of Bradford, who arrived in Norman in 2006 with hardly any fanfare. He might not have even ended up at Oklahoma had he not first been offered a scholarship by Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, who's known to have an eye for quarterbacks.

Once Leach made his offer, Bradford's high school coach phoned the Sooners and told them Bradford – who played just down the road at Putnam City North High School – might be headed for Lubbock. That prompted former offensive coordinator Chuck Long to attend one of Bradford's workouts during the spring after his junior year.

Even though Bradford was lacking in arm strength, Long loved his accuracy. He went back to Norman and told head coach Bob Stoops that Bradford needed to be a Sooner.

"OK," Stoops told Long. "I believe you. I trust you."

Still, at the time, no one could've predicted such greatness from a player whose high school didn't even make the playoffs during his senior year. Long says now that Bradford was signed to "add depth" to a quarterback position that was supposed to be manned by Rhett Bomar.

Bomar, though, was kicked off the team prior to the 2006 season for accepting money for work he never performed at a local car dealership. Paul Thompson started under center in 2006 while Bradford redshirted. The following year Bradford emerged from a three-man race in August-two-a-days to become the Sooners' starter.

He's been one of the nation's top players at his position ever since.


Bradford beat out last year’s Heisman winner Tim Tebow for the award this season.

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

"It's amazing to sit back and look at how fast this has all happened," Bradford said. "To think of where I was two years ago compared to now … it's almost overwhelming."

So, too, are Bradford's numbers.

Bradford led the nation in pass efficiency as a freshman and has been even more spectacular this season. Bradford enters Thursday's game touting 48 touchdown passes and just six interceptions. His 4,464 passing yards are a school record.

"He takes coaching as well as anyone when he doesn't do well," Wilson said. "He's a guy you can coach and correct. He gets very upset when he misses something. He wants to get it right every single time. You're never going to do that, of course. But he tries."

As much as they appreciate his prowess on the field, the Sooners say Bradford's best attribute is his demeanor off the field and in the huddle.

"Sometimes," tailback Mossis Madu said, "you'll look at him when he's talking and think, 'Man, he's the guy. He's the man.'

"We're the same age, but I look up to him. He keeps evolving into something bigger and bigger. He takes his leadership role so seriously."

As much as Bradford's game has improved, the 6-foot-4, 214-pounder continues to stay the same. The day before he won the Heisman Trophy, Bradford walked through the streets of New York sporting a pair of shades and a baseball cap.

Not one person stopped him for an autograph.

"That was pretty cool," he said. "Otherwise New York was kind of a whirlwind, but once I got back to Norman I just went back to my normal life. Nothing has really changed."

It will, though.

Maybe as early as Thursday.