Welcome back to another installment of our Countdown to Kickoff series! In exactly two weeks from today, the Oklahoma Sooners will make their 2019 college football season debut! Speaking of which, the No. 14 holds a special place in the hearts of many OU fans for more reasons than one. While several players have sported the number over the decades, at least a couple stand out among the rest as all-time greats. That’s right, I’m talking about national champion Josh Heupel and Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford.
It’s almost hard to believe that it’s been 19 years since Oklahoma won its last national title, but the time sure has flown by. Josh Heupel was the Sooners’ field general for that amazing 13-0 run towards the third-ever BCS National Championship Game, and man was he a good one.
Coming out of Aberdeen, S.D., Heupel enrolled at Weber State in 1996 before an ACL injury derailed his progress with the Wildcats. He transferred down to the JUCO ranks at Utah’s Snow College, where he eventually grabbed the attention of Oklahoma offensive coordinator Mike Leach. He signed with the Sooners in 1999, the same year Bob Stoops also arrived in Norman.
After a promising season for the program as well as Heupel in ‘99, the stars were aligning for OU in the turn of the century. The lefty’s unorthodox style of play might have looked a little awkward at times, but Heupel got the job done through the air and on the ground. The 2000 Heisman Trophy runner-up also stepped up in Oklahoma’s biggest games, which was an essential ingredient en route to the championship game against Florida State. Of course, the Sooners won that historic bout, 13-2, capturing the program’s seventh national title and successfully cementing Heupel’s legacy as a champion.
Following his playing career, Heupel switched gears at Oklahoma in 2004 as a graduate assistant. A year later, he coached tight ends at Arizona before returning to Norman to coach QBs from 2006-2010. When offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson took the head coaching job at Indiana, Heupel was promoted to co-OC and play caller from 2011-2014.
After a poor end to the 2014 season, it became time for Heupel to seek a fresh start in the coaching world. He landed at Utah State, where he coached QBs and ran the Aggies offense for a season. Missouri noticed his work and hired him for the same duties from ‘16 to ‘17. Today, he’s the head coach at UCF. His first season was a major success, as he guided the Knights to a 12-1 record in 2018 and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl. Heading into year two in Orlando, expectations are still high for Heupel and Central Florida.
After redshirting in 2007, this tall, unassuming passer out of Putnam City North HS in OKC won the starting QB job for the Sooners. It sure didn’t take long for Oklahoma fans to realize how talented this kid was, also. In the season opener against North Texas, Sam Braford went 21-23 passing for 363 yards and three touchdowns. It was clear that OU had found a true home-grown gem, and he was ready to take over college football.
After an outstanding inaugural season culminated with a Big 12 Championship, Conference Player of the Year and Freshman All-American status, expectations for Bradford in year two went through the roof. Fortunately for OU fans, he delivered and then some.
Sam Bradford’s 2008 season is one that will forever be held on a pedestal in Sooner lore for how incredible it was. Not only from an efficiency standpoint, but the consistency, as well as the overall unprecedented production. No team in FBS history has ever scored 60 or more points in five consecutive games other than that ‘08 Oklahoma squad led by the eventual Heisman Trophy winner.
His 2009 season was cut short after going down with an AC joint sprain in his throwing shoulder during the season opener, which was then reaggravated against Texas. For his collegiate career, Bradford totaled 8,403 passing yards and 88 TDs on a 67.64%, all marks which currently place him third in program history.
After beginning his pro career by being named the 2010 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year with the St. Louis Rams, expectations for the former Heisman winner and first overall pick were sky high. He remained with the organization for five seasons before moving to Philadelphia in 2015, followed by a two-year run in Minnesota and a brief stint with Arizona in 2018.
Unfortunately, Bradford’s teams never qualified for the playoffs while he was healthy. In fact, he was sidelined with season ending injuries in ‘13, ‘14 and ‘17, which took a lasting toll on his body. After a surprisingly poor start to his last season with the Cardinals, he was benched for rookie QB Josh Rosen, and subsequently released five weeks later. Today, he is not currently on an NFL roster.
While Sam Bradford hasn’t had the most illustrious NFL career of all-time, there were certainly some bright moments to look back on. Perhaps his greatest individual single season came in 2016 with the Minnesota Vikings. In 15 games, he threw for a career-high 3,877 yards and 20 touchdowns on a league-leading 71.6 completion percentage. Check out the highlights of Sammy B. at his professional best.
Bonus Countdown Bit - OF/QB Cody Thomas
Growing up in Colleyville, Texas, Cody Thomas was a multisport athlete with baseball and football being his primary focuses. After signing with and redshirting at Oklahoma in 2013, he was ready to make his mark on OU Football behind starter Trevor Knight. For his career, he made 10 appearances, including three starts in 2014, going 31-69 passing for 343 yards, two touchdowns against four interceptions.
Once Baker Mayfield took over in 2015, the Sooners’ QB situation was pretty well covered with Knight as the backup. Thomas stuck around until the conclusion of that season, but he understood that his true calling was on the baseball diamond. After a promising junior season in 2016, the outfielder was named an All-Big 12 honorable mention and was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 13th round.
Today, Cody Thomas is an OF for the Tulsa Drillers, the Double-A affiliate for the Dodgers organization. So far this 2019 season, he’s second in the Texas League with 19 home runs and fourth with 67 RBI. Currently, his Drillers lead the north division, and just last week he sealed the deal with this towering walk-off homer to right. Way to go, CT!
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