NORMAN — A low-hanging cap partially hid Sam Bradford’s eyes, and a scruffy beard began to camouflage his face. But incognito is not Harry Heisman’s game plan for 2009.
When you’re the most popular player in the history of the state’s most popular franchise, speaking softly is not an option, no matter how big a stick you carry. Following Teddy Roosevelt took Bradford far. But it will take him no farther. And truth is, the Oklahoma quarterback has been speaking up since the middle of last season. "From mid-season on, he really took the reins and became a very vocal leader,” OU quarterback coach Josh Heupel said. "That role has continued to expand.” That’s not Bradford’s natural personality. Slingin’ Sam is quiet, reserved, low-key. But that’s not the role required of a Heisman Trophy-winning veteran of a team with its sights set on all the marbles. "My role as a leader has definitely increased,” Bradford said. "I’ve kind of grown into it. The more experience I get, the more confidence I feel.” So Bradford is talking more. Encouraging. Cajoling. Reprimanding. Which is what you would expect from a three-year starter who knows the offense well and his teammates better. "He’s doing a better job with our young receivers,” Heupel said. "After a rep, ‘This is what I’m seeing. This is what you should be seeing.’ ” Bradford’s words appear to be well-received. Truth is, wagon trains want their quartermaster to level with them. "Guys want to hear what he’s thinking or what’s on his mind,” Bob Stoops said of Bradford. This is a natural progression.