Originally Published: Nov 20, 2009 11:26 AM CDT
Sam Bradford might be the only guy who could pull it off, but the Heisman winner did it Monday night during a press conference in Norman, where he spoke about his decision to undergo season-ending surgery and enter the 2010 NFL draft.
My math said Bradford’s decision to remain at OU and bypass last year’s draft where he was expected be a Top 5 selection cost him somewhere between $20-$40 million, but when asked if he regretted the decision the laid back finance major immediately shot back, “absolutely not?.there’s more to life than money. I’ve told you that before and I mean it.”
Perhaps only Bradford could make a room full of cynical journalists believe that he could walk away from that much cold, hard, green cash only to see his dreams turn into nightmares and not have second thoughts.
But it’s that one response that said a lot about how Bradford became the greatest QB in OU history—and arguably, the best player in school history.
It’s the kind of matter-of-fact, non-rah-rah persona that makes teammates play follow-the-leader.
He returned to school for all the right reasons: To win a national championship, to get bigger and stronger and to improve his footballs skills.
He returned because he loved laughing, leading and playing alongside his teammates who stood behind him in a show of respect.
What hit me was it had to have been hard to leave a year ago because the guy loves the college life. Probably makes some people jealous. Why did he have more fun that we did. College wasn’t that easy for most of us, was it?
Being the Big Man on Campus wasn’t what he’s savored. In fact, I’m told by many he shies away from it—as much as a Hesiman-winning QB can at a football –crazed place like OU.
In his mind, he was just one of the guys who happened to study game tape and play football. It’d be hard to not enjoy the college life Bradford has experienced. He’s a natural.
School‘s a breeze for the straight A Big Easy. Comingling with classmates comes easy. Football comes as easy as football can. Birdies and pars were no problem when the scratch golfer got out with friends for a day of golf. Sam Bradford has been a natural since he was a Putnam City kid -- excelling at football, basketball, hockey and anything else where score was kept.
The affection for his teammates is genuine—and it means the world to him. It was that same commitment to them, his coaches, and himself that delivered the second blow to the big dollar world of the NFL. Instead of saying sayonara and opting for surgery after his season-opening injury on September 5th, he rehabbed hard and got returned to fight another day, only to re-injure the million-dollar right shoulder on the Cotton Bowl sod.
Immediate surgery after the first injury would have put him on track to be ready for the NFL combine. Waiting until now means he’ll surely miss throwing at the combine and rely on OU’s Pro Day in late March/early April to perform for the scouts.
Bradford was asked a month ago if he was really going to try to come back this season. His response was memorable: “Yes. It would be selfish of me to not come back and play with the guys I’ve worked so hard with.”
So it came as no surprise Monday when his only show of emotion came when speaking of his teammates. His voice cracked twice as he glanced at his friends and spoke of the long hours they’d put in together. The friendships. The times together.
So in the end, Bradford has lost millions, will make many more millions, and is just like you and me. To him, life is clearly about relationships.
Finally something wasn’t so natural for Sam Bradford. It was hard for the Big Easy to walk away.