Realizing a dream
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Thursday, June 30, 2005
3/26/08 at 5:03 AM
Putnam North QB Sam Bradford gets wish to join Sooners
OKLAHOMA CITY -- It is a photo gallery like very few, the display in the Bradford family living room.
There's Sam Bradford in his Putnam City North basketball uniform, under a deep blue sky at a golf course, about to drive a football down the fairway. There he is on skates at a hockey rink decked out in Junior Blazers gear. There he is in a swimming pool, maybe 3 years old, joyfully dunking a toy ball.
And in this one, he's 11 and wearing a crimson Sooners football jersey. No. 20. He's got a huge smile on, too, and his dad is leaning over to kiss him on the side of the head.
"In my opinion, anytime your child can achieve his dream come true, it's perfect," said Kent Bradford, whose son, Sam, is about to do the real thing, now that he has verbally committed to play quarterback at Oklahoma beginning in 2006. "It truly is."
There was one rude awakening early on. When he was months old, Sam Bradford was photographed in orange and black thanks to his mischievous mother, an Oklahoma State graduate.
Otherwise . . .
Get Sam Bradford at the kitchen table and he'll tell you about Dallas and all those OU-Texas games -- the 63-14 game in 2000 was "a blast" -- or the time his dad, a Sooner tackle from 1975-78, played for the alumni in the Red-White game, and he went wandering wide-eyed into the locker room.
Sam Bradford refers to that as "the coolest thing ever."
Next fall, that locker room will be his.
"Everyone has been really happy for me," he said, "because everyone knew that's where I'd always wanted to go."
Chuck Long was Sam Bradford's genie.
A month ago, the Sooner offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach watched Bradford go through one of his typical Putnam North workouts.
"I threw a few routes to warm up and then we ran skeleton -- 7-on-7 -- for a while, and then we got into team and ran plays against our defense," Bradford said. "He didn't ask me to do anything specific."
That wasn't necessary. He had made an impression on Long at OU's camp the previous summer. The following fall, Bradford threw for 1,980 yards and 16 touchdowns as Putnam North made the Class 6A semifinals.
"Sam is as good a pocket passer I've seen since I've been here," said Westmoore coach Mike Whaley, who is 0-2 against Bradford the last two years. "He has a special knack for finding the right guy and getting him the ball, especially on big downs.
"He's one of those guys that keeps opposing coaches up all night."
Word of that nature filtered back to OU, where Long already knew of Bradford's 6-foot-4, 220-pound build and athletic gifts. He already knew the kid was North's best basketball player and a member of Oklahoma's premier AAU team, not to mention an accomplished hockey player until he gave up the sport before high school, and a good enough golfer to spot playing partners' shots now and then.
"Coach Long said after he saw me (at practice) it was like the icing on the cake," Bradford said.
If that wasn't, the snowballing interest shown by other programs had to be.
Texas Tech's Mike Leach was the first to offer Bradford a scholarship last spring. That, in turn, piqued interest from Iowa State and Kansas.
Then recruiting gurus started buzzing.
"Sam is a kid with a lot of tools," said Allen Wallace, national recruiting editor for Scout.com. "He's a superb all-around athlete. It looks like he has a strong arm and a nice release. He can run, and he has really good size."
By May, Texas A&M and Michigan had visited North.
"When Michigan was in, (Wolverine quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler) felt Sam was one of the top five at his position in the nation," North coach Bob Wilson said. "I said, 'I don't know about that.' He said, 'I do. I've seen them.'
"(Loeffler) said he was 99 percent sure they'd offer him."
All Loeffler needed was an OK from Michigan coach Lloyd Carr. Problem: Carr was out of pocket while waiting for the birth of a grandchild.
By the time he got back in the office, and by the time Loeffler could call with the offer, it was too late. Long conferred with OU coach Bob Stoops and called with his own offer the night he watched Bradford practice.
"About a week after they offered me, me and my parents went down and had a meeting with coach Long and coach Stoops," Bradford said. "They showed us all the facilities, and we just talked. Everything they told me I liked. They answered every question I had before I even had to ask it."
Including the one about Bradford being the only quarterback from his class OU intended to pursue, provided he stuck with his commitment. And the one about academic support, seeing as how he maintained a grade-point-average above 4.0, was retaking the ACT this fall to shoot for a 30, and had designs on attending law school one day.
"On the way home that night, I told my dad OU was the place for me and that's where I was going to go," Bradford said. "He said, 'All right.' "
If the response was subdued, it was also consistent with Kent Bradford's outlook on the whole process.
"It was Sam's choice all the way. I tried to steer clear of it all," he said. "If it was OU, that was fine. If it was Michigan or Stanford, even if it was OSU, that was fine."
"He'd gone through (recruiting) when he was my age," Sam Bradford said.
Therefore, he knew he could be happy with his son's choice, but even happier with his son's happiness.
And Sam Bradford is happy.
His big decision made, he can now relax and focus on a big senior year at North, throwing passes to heralded wide receiver Kenny Brown, maybe leading the Panthers another step deeper into the 6A playoffs, and then transitioning into a last fling with basketball.
It is a prelude to some vivid dreams. And why not, with his most vivid having been realized.
"I really never thought of anything like this when I was growing up," Bradford said. "I always dreamed about it, but . . .
"I used to look at the guys in college and think, 'Man, those guys are really good. I wish I could do that some day.' I'm starting to realize how lucky I am that I have an opportunity to go to the University of Oklahoma to play football. Not many guys can say that. I think it's starting to sink in."
Guerin Emig 581-8355
Putnam City North quarterback Sam Bradford can now enjoy his senior year with the Panthers, knowing his future is secure as a Sooner in 2006.