NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Three years removed from his decision to stay in school at Oklahoma after winning the Heisman Trophy, St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford still believes he made the right move.
And he’s not about to question why current Sooners QB Landry Jones decided to follow in his footsteps.
“I know coming back was the complete right decision for me. There’s no way I was ready to leave college after two and half years,” Bradford said Wednesday during his youth football camp on the intramural fields at Oklahoma.
“Even though I came back and got hurt, the experience that I gained in that extra year was invaluable. There’s no way I would have been able to step into an NFL huddle and lead an NFL team at 21 years old.”
Bradford had just won the 2008 Heisman Trophy and led the Sooners to the national championship game – where they lost to Tim Tebow’s Florida Gators – during a record-setting offensive season when he decided to come back for another year in college. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, tight end Jermaine Gresham and offensive lineman Trent Williams, who would all become first-round draft picks the following season, also returned.
Bradford missed most of the season after injuring his right, throwing shoulder in an opening loss to BYU and Jones took over for him. Now, Jones is heading into his fourth season as a starter and erasing many of the career records Bradford set during his three years with the Sooners.
Because Bradford still works out in Norman during the offseason, he sees Jones a couple times a week and had a chance to counsel him on his choice to come back instead of entering this year’s draft.
“Obviously, it was his decision. If he feels like he made the right decision, then he did,” Bradford said. “I remember going through that process and people were telling me, `You should leave,’ or, `You should stay.’ At the end of the day, I was like, `It doesn’t matter what you think because you’re not the one who is going to live it.’
“I’m excited that he’s back. I think he’s a great player and I’m looking forward to seeing them play this year. Hopefully, they go all the way and win the national championship.”
Jones got married over the weekend to Whitney Hand, a starting guard for the Sooners’ women’s basketball team.
“I don’t care what kind of year it is, if you play quarterback at Oklahoma there’s going to be a lot pressure, especially coming into a season ranked as highly as they are right now,” Bradford said.
“I think Landry has always done a great job handling it. He’s plays well week in and week out. I don’t expect that to change this year. He’ll probably have the best year he’s ever had. I look forward to watching him play.”
As for Bradford, he’s adjusting to the Rams’ new coaching staff after Jeff Fisher replaced Steve Spagnuolo. After being the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft, Bradford had St. Louis one win away from the playoffs before losing to Seattle in the season finale.
The Rams went 2-14 last season.
“Having coach Fisher there is something that is really going to help our organization. He’s a guy who’s been in the league and winning games for a long time now. He’s knows what he’s doing,” Bradford said. “From Day 1, he’s had the respect of everyone in our locker room, which I think is extremely important.
“The changes that have been made this year and in the offseason are definitely going to help us win games.”
Just the nature of the offseason has also been helpful to Bradford. Last season, he was trying to adjust to new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ system without being able to contact him because of the lockout. This year, he’s had normal interactions with Brian Schottenheimer. Training camp will open later this month.
“It was nice to actually have an offseason to do that. Last year with the lockout, trying to learn a new offense on your own isn’t a lot of fun, in case you guys were wondering,” Bradford said.
“Being able to spend that time with him and getting to learn the offense has been nice.”
For a few days, though, Bradford was the one leading this camp. It struck up memories of when he came to Sooners’ basketball camp in his own childhood and considered it “the greatest thing in the world.” He was also a competitive golfer in high school before pursuing football as his career.
“I remember being their age and it feels like it wasn’t too long ago,” Bradford said. “I think it was one of the greatest times of my life. I woke up every morning and went and played sports all day. Then I went to bed, woke up the next morning and did it again. I’m sure I drove some of my friends nuts because whenever they came over we didn’t sit down for a second. We were outside doing something.
“I would give anything to be able to go back and do that again. I just hope they’re having fun with it. Football is a game and it’s the greatest game in the world. They should be having fun when they’re out there playing it.”