In exactly two weeks from today, the Oklahoma Sooners will square off against Florida Atlantic to open the 2018 college football season. This is also the final football-less Saturday before actual games begin. For today’s Countdown to Kickoff edition, I’ve got something extra special in store for you.
The No. 14 is a storied one in Oklahoma football lore. BCS National Champion Josh Heupel and Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford both donned the one-four, and by the end of each of their respective careers, both cemented their legacies as some of the best winners in program history.
Let’s start with the first of the two field generals.
Josh Heupel was born and raised in Aberdeen, South Dakota. In 1996, he redshirted at Weber State, but an ACL injury in the spring of ‘98 forced him down the QB depth chart. The embattled signal caller elected to transfer, where he wound up at Snow College, a JUCO in Utah. His play there attracted national attention, including the Sooners’, and after meeting with offensive coordinator Mike Leach, he was bound for Norman.
In 1999, Heupel aired it out in Leach’s let-it-fly offense. The lefty’s style was a bit unorthodox, but it got the job done. He was also a capable improvisor when necessary, making him the ideal QB for the up-and-coming Sooners. In 2000, Heupel, Bob Stoops and the rejuvenated Oklahoma program went on a run for the ages.
Over the course of that historic season, Heupel was put to the test week after week, and he met the challenge every single time. One of those challenges came against Nebraska, who went ahead 14-0 early before Mark Mangino’s offense found a rhythm and hit back with force.
As the story goes, Heupel and the Sooners would go on to play for the national championship in the Orange Bowl against the Florida State Seminoles. The dominant combination of stifling defense and QB wizardry was the perfect mixture to secure the seventh national title in school history.
For his two-year Oklahoma career, Josh Heupel threw for 7,066 yards and 50 touchdowns at a 63.3-percent clip. In 2000, he finished as the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy (Torrance Marshall got it back for him, though), and was named a Consensus All-American and AP Player of the Year. He was also awarded with the Walter Camp Award, making him one of the more accomplished Sooner QBs school history.
From 2006 to 2010, Heupel was on the Oklahoma coaching staff to train the Sooner QBs, including a guy by the name of Sam Bradford. Once Kevin Wilson took the Indiana head coaching job in 2011, Heupel was promoted to co-OC and play caller for the next four seasons. Things didn’t end well for him at OU, but the guy definitely landed on his feet. Today, Heupel is a first-year head coach at UCF.
Six seasons after Heupel wrapped up his playing career, Sam Bradford, a tall, lanky Putnam City North product, stepped onto the scene. He was a multi-sport athlete in high school, playing basketball and hockey in addition to football. After redshirting at Oklahoma in 2006, the calm, cool and collected signal caller made a thunderous statement, running away as the overwhelming choice for the starting spot.
As a redshirt freshman in ‘07, Bradford did things no other QB in his position had ever done in FBS history. At the time, his 36 passing TDs were the most ever in a season for a freshman, and he set an Oklahoma record for consecutive completions (22) that spanned the North Texas and Miami games. The sky was the limit for the young passer, and the offense he commanded was about to reach never-before-seen heights.
Going into the ‘08 season, expectations were incredibly high for Bradford and the Sooners. After starting the season 5-0, a tough loss to Texas set Oklahoma back a bit. That’s when the offense turned it up a level. With Bradford leading the charge, OC Kevin Wilson’s offense lit up the scoreboard every time they took the field. In each of the final five games before the bowl season, OU eclipsed the 60-point mark, becoming the first team to ever do so.
While the 2008 season was a special one for the team, with Oklahoma reaching the national championship game against Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators, it was also a special one for Sam Bradford, whose astronomical statistics and big plays on the biggest stages sent him to New York for the Heisman Trophy Ceremony. Fortunately for he and Sooner fans, he didn’t come home empty-handed.
In addition to winning college football’s most prestigious individual honor, Bradford was named a Consensus All-American, the AP and Sporting News Player of the Year, and won the Davey O’Brien Award.
Bradford remained at Oklahoma following the ‘08 season, but in the ‘09 season opener vs. BYU, he suffered an AC joint sprain that ultimately spelled the end of his prolific college career. He would come back to throw for 389 yards against Baylor a few weeks later, but the shoulder was re-injured the next week against Texas, and that was that. In 31 games, the Heisman Trophy winner amassed 8,403 passing yards and 88 passing TDs.
Bradford went on to become the No. 1 overall pick by the St. Louis Rams in 2010, which is also when he won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, Bradford’s pro career has since been plagued with injuries, including multiple ankle injuries and two ACL tears. After five seasons with the Rams, he spent one season in Philadelphia and two seasons in Minnesota. Today, the veteran QB is entering his ninth NFL season, this time with the Arizona Cardinals.
No matter how his NFL career rounds out, Sam Bradford’s surgical precision on Owen Field was second-to-none. He will forever be considered one of the most efficient quarterbacks to ever play for Oklahoma.
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