Why St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford's decision to choose football surprised some people

Those who knew young Sam Bradford aren't surprised he made it big. Some are surprised, though, that the sport was football. As a kid, the future Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman winner excelled in basketball, golf and hockey.
by Michael Baldwin Published: September 21, 2013
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photo - St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford throws during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam) ORG XMIT: MOJR103
St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford throws during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam) ORG XMIT: MOJR103

Rose understands why the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Bradford chose football.

“In football he had more opportunities, more offers,” Rose said. “But I have no doubt he'd be a helluva NHL player, especially with all the size he's put on. Back then he was skinny. With his talent, and his size, who knows how good he'd have been if he had stuck to hockey?”

Rose played hockey through his sophomore year at OU. He now works in a family-owned homebuilder company in Moore. Rose hasn't talked to Bradford in four or five years. The last time they talked, Bradford confessed he missed lacing up the skates.

“He was good at everything but at that age it wasn't like you thought he'd go No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft,” Rose said. “Once he focused on football, he took off. I think it would have been the same for hockey. I know he loved hockey to his core.”

AT&T Stadium “not good” memories

Bradford sometimes is labeled “too nice” or “too soft-spoken” to be a quarterback. But teammates and coaches at every level, including OU coach Bob Stoops, tell stories about how Bradford's calm, quiet persona is complemented by a ultra competitive drive.

Bradford doesn't need the limelight to bring out his competitive side. Wilson said Bradford would want to win, whether it was a pickup basketball game on a driveway or against America's Team in Jerry World.

“You combine that competitive side with the type of person he is, Sam Bradford is what every coach dreams of,” Wilson said. “I knew his character and discipline, more than anything, is what would carry him. I know it sounds old school but what impressed me most about Sam is the way he handles himself.”

The NFL preaches not to get too high or too low, but Bradford might have added incentive in Week 3.

Sunday's game will be Bradford's first “official” game at AT&T Stadium since his final season at OU.

Bradford played in a preseason game against the Cowboys last season in Arlington. His only other appearance was when OU lost to BYU 14-13 four years ago.

Last week in a conference call with the Dallas media, Bradford was asked for his memories of AT&T Stadium.

“Are you referring to my college game there?” Bradford said. “Then obviously they're not very good.”

Bradford entered the game, which was OU's season opener, as the reigning Heisman winner. OU was ranked No. 3 in preseason. But the season turned upside down when Bradford was slammed to the turf late in the first half, injuring his throwing shoulder.

He returned a few weeks later but reinjured the shoulder the following month. He played in only three games. OU finished 8-5.

“That was supposed to be a big year for myself and our team,” Bradford said. “To get hurt down there and eventually go on to miss most of the season it was pretty frustrating. Obviously not the best memory of that stadium.”

Since the BYU game, Bradford has been slammed to the ground countless times during his NFL career. In his first three seasons, only four quarterbacks were sacked more than Bradford, who was sacked 105 times.

But the tide could be turning. Protected by a revamped offensive line with 337 career starts, Bradford is the only NFL starting quarterback who hasn't been sacked this season, a stat that will be tested by the Cowboys, led by All-Pro defensive end DeMarcus Ware.

The Rams also have surrounded Bradford with more weapons.

St. Louis signed tight end Jared Cook and moved up in the draft to select West Virginia star Tavon Austin. Young receivers Austin Pettis and Chris Givens are much improved. Running back Daryl Richardson provides some balance.

Bradford has thrown for 651 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions in the Rams' first two games.

“The first two weeks we've done some good things, but we've shot ourselves in the foot multiple times, especially early in last week's game,” Bradford said at his weekly news conference. “It'll be interesting to see how good this offense can be if we play four quarters the way we're capable of playing.”

That's typical of Sam Bradford the competitor. He's constantly trying to improve. But regardless how his stat line reads, Rischard said he knew a decade ago Bradford would be a success.

“My kids always ask, ‘Dad, tell us a Sam Bradford story,'” Rishcard said. “Everyone talks about how he was so talented in every sport, even hockey. But what stands out to me is Sam Bradford is one of the most likable young men to ever come on the Oklahoma sports scene.

“He's such a great role model for kids and adults. I don't know how anyone could root against Sam Bradford. He's exactly what you want your athletes to be.”

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by Michael Baldwin
Reporter
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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