In January 2009, Sam Bradford, the Oklahoma Sooners’ Heisman-winning quarterback, rolled the dice when he announced that he’d come back for another year in school.
It was the football equivalent of splitting tens in blackjack.
At stake: Millions of dollars in NFL riches should Bradford suffer catastrophic injury or somehow manage to hurt his stock with draftniks, which was sky-high. In fact, you could argue that the scrutiny and inevitable second-guessing had put more pressure on Bradford to go pro than stay at OU.
Friday night, Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, signed a contract with the St. Louis Rams worth $50 million guaranteed. The Rams’ quarterback of the future could earn up to $86 million in the next six years under the terms of the deal.
Right now, it looks like Bradford’s decision worked out alright. Yet, back in the fall as he was rehabbing a dinged-up shoulder, there was plenty of 20/20 hindsight talk about Bradford’s big blunder and all the cash that had slipped through his fingers.
There was plenty of blame for Bradford’s bad fortune to go around, too. Take CBS blowhard Gary Danielson, who contended that OU coach Bob Stoops and Bradford’s parents had failed Slingin’ Sam by not pushing him to go pro after the 2009 season.
So, all’s well that ends well, right? Bradford’s rich, Stoops is vindicated and the haters can all suck a fat one.
For some reason, like Danielson, we all seem to think we have a better idea of what college athletes should do with their lives than they do. Combine that with an astounding ability to predict the future after the fact, and, well, the told-you-so crowd is awfully smart.
In this case, Bradford decided he wanted another year of college. Oklahoma City’s anti-LeBron took a true hometown discount. Knowing that he could cost himself the GDP of a small country, Bradford opted for playing for free at his dream school over the chance to potentially be a Detroit Lion.
And, when his “gamble” was supposed to have blown up in his face, Bradford got ripped for it.
Now would be Bradford’s chance to shoot the bird to the haters, but that would be awfully out of character. And it’s not the point.
Bradford did what he wanted on his terms. The fact that Bradford just signed one of the largest contracts in NFL history doesn’t make his decision to spend another year in school right or wrong. That’s not our call.
What really matters is that, for Bradford, it was the right call all along.