TULSA — Jordan Brailford had forgotten his shoes.
Shoes he needed for an AAU basketball tournament in Oklahoma City as a seventh-grader.
Naturally, Brailford's grandfather, Nathaniel Brailford, Sr., saved the day.
“He went all the way back to Tulsa,” Jordan recalled Wednesday, just after the Tulsa Washington product signed to play football at Oklahoma State. “He got my shoes, came back, gave them to me and then paid to get back in the game.”
Signing Day provides a special moment for families to celebrate all the hard work and sacrifice — along with the memories and joy — that have helped an athlete reach the collegiate level.
And Nathaniel has certainly been special part of Jordan's journey.
“I just put him through a lot,” Jordan said. “I know he's real glad I'm signing today. I know he's proud of me, and I love him for everything he's done for me.
“It makes me feel good, because I know not a lot of people have the support that he's given me and I thank God for him.”
While Jordan was raised by Robin Daniels, a single mother, Nathaniel was often the one picking his grandson up from school and driving him around to practice.
Nathaniel quickly became a figure that teammates and families knew, because he always hung around to watch the whole workout. Whether it was hot. Or cold. Or football. Or hoops.
“Just a grandfather's connection with his child,” he said.
Added Daniels: “I can't thank him enough. I'm so grateful to have him as a member of our family.”
It's worth noting that Nathaniel is Jordan's paternal grandfather, not Daniels' father. Jordan assured that his father has been in his life, though added he's “getting back on his feet” following some recent personal troubles that Jordan preferred to keep private.
Nathaniel said his favorite sports memory from Jordan came when he proclaimed he wanted to switch his focus from basketball to football, because he “wanted to hit somebody.”
And Jordan has developed into a ferocious attacker at defensive end, using his speed and superior hands to consistently burst into the backfield. The 6-3, 225-pound prospect committed to the Cowboys in June and garnered more buzz late in the recruiting season, when ESPN added a fourth star to his ranking following a standout performance in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl.
Jordan walked to the podium at the Tulsa Public Schools headquarters Wednesday morning to announce he was set to become a Cowboy. During a brief speech, he gave a special shout out to Nathaniel for carting him around for all of those years.
“You owe me!” Nathaniel playfully hollered from his seat in the second-to-last row of the large meeting room.
Here's the thing: Jordan signing with OSU means many of his games will still be within driving distance. Nathaniel jokes he might even surprise Jordan by randomly showing up on campus one day.
Because the relationship built between grandfather and son during those trips, those long practices, is what's important.
And it created a Signing Day moment where Nathaniel felt an emotion that extends well beyond proud.
“I stuck my chest out so much that it hurts,” Nathaniel said.