(This is part 1 of a 3-part series on Sam Bradford's career at Oklahoma, a career that has led him to being a signature away from being the #1 overall pick in the NFL draft.)
I know many NFL fans don't follow college football very closely, but if you never heard of Sam Bradford until the last couple of months, you missed a meteoric rise to the top of college football followed, of course, by a heartbreaking injury and the current tsunami of love we've been drowning under that shows no signs of abating. Greatest opening sentence of all time.
Today, let's look at how Sam Bradford got to this point and what happened during his fantastic voyage...fantastic voyage...aw yeah...
Come alooooong and riiiiiiide on a fantastic voyage! It's going to be a funky summer for 3k at TST to remind all you kids of what old school really means. And just to clarify, it doesn't necessarily mean pirate outfits and awkward swordfights. Less pirates but more Sam Bradford after the jump.
From Oklahoma City to Norman
Samuel Jacob Bradford was born to a railroad worker and a libarian in a small one-room shack in... ok no, but I think I saw a movie with Lee Van Cleef that started like that. Bradford graduated from Putnam North City H.S. in Oklahoma City, where Olivia Munn also went. Who is Olivia Munn?
I, for one, vote that if we draft Bradford, he should be contractually obliged to bring her to every game whether he knows her or not. Eventually, Bradford left the babe factory that was his high school to be a Sooner. Bradford was a third-tier recruit that year in a very good class (ESPN, Rivals) that included Matthew Stafford, Jevan Snead, Tim Tebow, Jake Locker, Josh Freeman and Christian Ponder at QB. At the time, Oklahoma was finishing a disappointing season.
Paul Thompson started the year as the Sooner's QB, but after a disappointing loss to TCU in their first game, he was moved to WR to make way for Rhett Bomar. Bomar, with the help of a future superstar running back to be named later, led the Sooners through an up-and-down season in which they finished 8-4, edging out Oregon in the Pacific Life Insurance Holiday Bowl (which featured Ryan Leaf's younger brother as the Ducks' QB). Going to a team with two experienced QBs, Bradford was sure to receive a redshirt. It was the last certainty he would face in his college career.
Sitting and studying - the 2006 season
One month before the season started, the tumult of Bradford's career began; on August 3rd, Head Coach Bob Stoops dismissed starting QB Rhett Bomar, and sophomore stud OG (as in offensive guard, not original gangsta) J.D. Quinn, from the team. The two received money from a local car dealership for work they hadn't actually, uh, worked. With a hole at the top of the depth chart, there were concerns that Bradford would have to be plugged in and not receive a redshirt. In the end, Thompson moved back to QB and JUCO transfer Joey Halzle backed him up, allowing Bradford to keep his redshirt for the season.
It was a much improved year for the Sooners, marked with controversy, an injury to a top Heisman candidate, and two of the greatest college football games I've ever seen. Behind the disgustingly talented Adrian Peterson (the unnamed aforementioned RB), OU jumped out to a 2-0 record. The Sooners traveled to Eugene in their only pre-Texas hurdle on September 16th; the game featured one of the greatest comebacks, and one of the worst calls, in football history:
Oregon would score 14 points in 72 seconds and OU would miss a field goal as time ran out to ruin Oklahoma's championship dreams. I would love to know what Sam learned from that game, what he was thinking as Dennis Dixon, the Ducks' starting QB (and possibly now the Steelers' starter?), marched his team for the game-winning TD. It was a loss that shattered the fans. Who knows what might have happened two weeks later had OU come back from the Pacific northwest with their championship run intact. As it was, Texas would expose the lack of experience two weeks later as the Longhorns took the Red River Shootout 28-10 in a game defined by Oklahoma's five turnovers to none for UT. The game offered a redshirted freshman, Colt McCoy, playing smart, low-risk football, something Bradford would be eager to repeat when he got his chance. Oklahoma, after losing Adrian Peterson in OU's next game, would rattle off 8 straight wins en route to a Fiesta Bowl matchup against Boise St. There is nothing I could link to that would do that game justice. It had everything a fan wants in football - ridiculous amounts of offense, overtime, trick plays, even a damn marriage proposal. ESPN dubbed it an instant classic - tough call there. Over at Crimson and Cream Machine, SBN's OU community, they wondered if it was the best game ever.
When the dust settled, Sooners fans knew a season had gotten away from them. Adrian Peterson was supposed to run his way to the Heisman. Rhett Bomar was supposed to settle the score after being stomped by Vince Young's championship Texas team a year earlier. And even more unsettling, the questions looking forward weren't being answered. Who was going to be their QB in 2007? Sure, it was a setup year for a 2008 championship run, but so was 2005, and look how well that turned out.
With the season over, ccmachine at CCM duly gave credit to Paul Thompson before looking ahead to 2007, a season that had more problems than solutions at the time:
The starting quarterback position is wide open next season with three candidates. Sam Bradford will be a redshirt freshman and is the front runner at this point but newcomer Keith Nichol has enrolled for the spring semester and is expected to make a serious push in the spring for the starting job as a true freshman. Junior-to-be Joey Halzle is the long shot going into the spring but he is the only one of the three who has actual game experience.
I don't see the quarterback position being settled this spring. The coaches are going to want to get a long look at Nichol and Bradford and then see how they progress over the summer. Competition breeds success and this will be a competition that lasts well into August.
Oklahoma would soon have their questions answered in the most dominating fashion imaginable. Sam Bradford's redshirt was coming off (pictured left).
In part 2: Bradford's 2007 and 2008 seasons - the broken records, the Heisman and the decision