NORMAN — The chant started while Sam Bradford stood in the middle of Owen Field, finishing off press interviews Saturday "Sam! Sam! Sam! Sam!”
The anthem was interrupted by a roaring cheer when Bradford started jogging toward the west-side stands. Soon enough, Bradford stood along the wall, signing hats and footballs, posters and tickets, as hundreds of Sooner fans clamored around. A five-man security detail stood by, and when the crowd began to get unruly, the sentries whisked away Bradford. But he ran not to the safety of the locker room, but to the other side of Owen Field, where his approach triggered thunderous acclaim from the hundreds of hungry fans who by faith waited their turn. I have been covering OU football for 30 years and went to games and scrimmages before that. Never have I seen what I saw Saturday. Never have I seen a player lionized like Bradford was Saturday. Not beloved heroes Joe Washington and the Selmon brothers. Not reigning Heisman winners Billy Sims and Jason White. Not counter-culture icons Brian Bosworth and Jamelle Holieway. This was Elvis. This was the Beatles. This is what I hear it’s like for Tim Tebow in Florida. "There’s 10,000 other people that want his autograph,” said Paul Beam, an OU fan from Perry who with his son, 8-year-old Elias, tried and failed to get Bradford’s signature. Ten thousand was an exaggeration, but it was crazy. Said Andrew Schwartz, 21, of Yukon, "Man, there was no way. It’s insane.” Actually, there was a way. Shelby Davies-Jones got the prized autograph. "I had to push some people out of my way,” she said. That’s right. Davies-Jones is a girl. A 12-year-old girl. "I pushed myself to the front,” she said. "It was violent.” I remember reading about Cal Ripken, late in his career, when he would return to the field and sign autographs until the last fan had been served.