At a time when top NFL prospects are getting ready for the draft, Bradford on Monday night was recognized with the Davey O’Brien Award as the nation’s top quarterback – and looking ahead to another chance to lead Oklahoma to a national championship.
The NFL will have to wait another year – maybe two – for the O’Brien and Heisman Trophy winner. The 24-14 loss to Florida in last month’s BCS national championship is what occupies his thoughts, not the decision he made to bypass the pros for now for another season with the Sooners.
“It’s great to be in the game, but probably a lot more frustrating to actually be in the game and lose than if you weren’t in the game at all,” Bradford said. “I’ve thought about it probably every day since the game, just different things that could have gone different. … I’m using it as motivation right now, work harder than I’ve ever worked to get back in that game.”
Bradford has thrown for 7,841 yards and a school-record 86 touchdowns in his two seasons at Oklahoma, including 50 this past season as a sophomore.
Though he would have been a high draft pick, Bradford decided last month to stay with the Sooners.
“Before I made that decision, I knew whichever direction I was going to go, I had to be fully committed, and I had to just look ahead and not look in the past,” Bradford said. “I felt like I made the right decision.”
Two months after being named the O’Brien winner, the magnitude of the award hit him as he stared at the list of previous winners while sitting in his hotel room before the banquet.
“It was really humbling. It almost took my breath away,” Bradford said. “It was hard for me to comprehend that I joined a list of football players that I idolized growing up.”
Among the former O’Brien winners are Florida’s Tim Tebow, who as a sophomore last year also won the Heisman and is also returning to the Gators, Troy Aikman, Steve Young, Peyton Manning and Jim McMahon, the initial recipient in 1981.
Bradford shared the podium with Super Bowl-winning and former Notre Dame quarterback Joe Theismann, who was presented the O’Brien Legends award. Theismann spoke with the Oklahoma quarterback about the specialness of the O’Brien trophy.
“I talked about it this way,” Theismann said. “Look at the people who have gone before you, it tells you about the prestigiousness of this award.”
Bradford kept Tebow from repeating as the Heisman and O’Brien winners, though both quarterbacks will get another chance next season. What Bradford really wants is a national championship like Tebow.
While Archie Griffin is the only two-time Heisman winner, there have been three two-time winners of the O’Brien quarterback award, including Oklahoma’s Jason White (2004-05) and Florida’s Danny Wuerffel (1995-96). The other multiple winner was BYU’s Ty Detmer (1990-91).
Believe former Oklahoma center Jon Cooper, and Bradford could be around long enough to become a three-time winner with multiple championships. Cooper told The Oklahoman newspaper this week that he believes Bradford will return for his senior season as well.
“I’m going to cross that bridge when I come to it,” Bradford said with a smile when told what Cooper had said. “I’m not going to say right now I’m leaving for sure next year. I’m not going to say that I’m comi