2008 Heisman Trophy, as quarterback for the University of Oklahoma
sports - football
Sam Bradford's Strategy for Success
By Jonathan Cyprowski and Shawn Brown
The 700 Club
April 15, 2009
Since the game’s inception, hundreds of thousands of young men have played collegiate football, but only 74 hold the distinction of winning the Heisman Trophy. As a sophomore, Sam Bradford joins Tim Tebow as the youngest ever to be inducted into this exclusive group of gridiron stars. Sam was always a gifted athlete, which made for a busy schedule for the Bradford family.
“I think it was just one of those things. I played a million different sports when I was growing up. I started when I was probably five or six and we’d just go from activity to activity to activity,” Sam said. “I think, finally my parents just realized that we were missing something in our lives. They realized that it was time for us as a family to start going to church.”
Sam enjoyed going to church, and before long he made a decision that would affect the rest of his life.
“I remember going every Sunday morning, just listening and learning more about the Lord. Probably after a couple of months, I really decided that I wanted to give my life to the Lord. And, ever since then it’s something that I really try to make a strong point in my life,” he said.
Athletics continued to come naturally for Sam. After a stellar high-school career, he took a scholarship at the University of Oklahoma. His introduction to division-one football tested everything he believed in.
“Patience and perseverance is something that I really learned my first semester here as a freshman,” Sam said. “I really struggled. I really struggled with the Lord. Because I came here, I wasn’t getting to play. I was sitting on the bench. I was having to wake up at 5 a.m. to go to workouts. That was a totally new concept to me. Every sport I’d ever played in, I’d always played. I never sat the bench. And, I kind of turned my back on the Lord. I was like, ‘Why are you doing this to me? Why are you putting me in this situation?’”
The leader of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at University of Oklahoma challenged Sam about his relationship with the Lord. Shortly after, he started attending the FCA meetings on campus. It was there that Sam rekindled his relationship with Christ.
“I got back into that routine of listening to someone giving a message about God. It kind of opened my eyes and I saw that God, He knew what He was doing,” Sam said. “When I second-guessed Him, I thought He was going in the totally wrong direction. I mean, He knew exactly what He was doing; He had a plan for me. He’s had a plan my whole life. For me to not trust him, it was just ridiculous. So I think to be patient and persevere through hard times when you’re really not sure what God’s doing - that’s something that I’ve learned. You’ve got to learn to trust Him and know that He knows what He’s doing.”
As a quarterback for one of the top college football programs in the country, Sam faces enormous pressure. To deal with it, he turns to the Bible for direction.
“That can be a humbling experience, knowing that the weight of the team is on your shoulders. How do you deal with that?” Sam said. “That’s something that I really had to deal with - not just leading the team and that pressure; but also the pressure that comes with being in college and having to go to class and keeping your grades up. I value academics. I take class really serious. So, trying to deal with football, academics, being a leader on this team, not just a part of this team [is a lot]. I think God, when you spend time with Him, and the more you read, the more He shows you by example what it is to be a leader. How you do it - maybe read a story about something that someone in the Bible did. And I think maybe you don’t understand it at the time, or you’re not sure how it applies to your life. But then a month later you might be put in a situation or God puts you in a situation, and you recall, ‘Oh yeah, that’s what I need to do and that’s what God’s showing me to do right now.’”
One of those times came the night before his first game as a starter. Sitting in his hotel room he opened the Bible and read the story of David and Goliath.
“Obviously, I was really nervous. I was looking to the Lord for strength and it was just something that He pointed me towards,” Sam said. “I read it and I really felt confident when I took the field knowing that He was right there behind me. It was something that just kind of happened to become a tradition and it’s something I do before every game now. The thing that I just love about that story is that David went out there and he didn’t go out there as David. He went out there as David with God and through God. I think it just proves that you’re so much stronger when you do things through God, and when you live through Him than when you try to do things on your own.”
One season later Sam won the most prestigious award in college football, the 2008 Heisman Trophy, as quarterback for the University of Oklahoma.
Shawn Brown: You won the Heisman Trophy. What does that mean to you?
Sam Bradford: It’s one of the greatest honors in college football. I was fortunate enough - God blessed me with the opportunity to win that award this year, and it means a lot to me. But I feel like it’s a direct reflection of how our team played. I think it goes to those 104 other guys who weren’t there with me. Without them, I wouldn’t have been there. So for me to be able to accept that award on behalf of those guys, it was really humbling.
Shawn: Awards and accolades to someone like you. Does that define you by any means?
Sam: No, not at all.
Shawn: What defines you?
Sam: I think my character defines me. My actions, the things I do every day define me. That’s something that my parents have talked to me about ever since I was little. I remember being so disappointed after a game if we had lost or so happy if we had won a game. And my parents would say, ‘We’re proud of you and we love you regardless of what happened in that game today.’ I feel like regardless of whether or not I win this award or I win that award or I don’t win this award - I’m still Sam at the end of the day. And that’s what defines me.”
Sam still sees the accolades as a responsibility.
“I do realize that God has given me so many blessings in my life,” Sam said. “I mean, not only with football, but with the family that He’s blessed me with and the opportunity He’s given me to grow up in a home that embraces God. To know that He did choose me to do this, and that I am living through Him and that I have a responsibility to set an example to younger kids to show them that you can’t do things on your own. God will help you, He will guide you and it’s a great thing to have Him in your life.”
Recently Sam was projected to be the number one pick in the upcoming NFL draft. Faced with a big decision: finish school or leave early for the fame and fortune of the NFL. Again, he asked God for direction.
“It’s probably one of the toughest decisions I’ve had to make in my life and I relied on the Lord to give me direction,” he said. “One of the things that I went into this decision with, whichever direction I went - I wanted to be 100 percent sure that that’s where I wanted to go, and that’s where my heart was. The more I thought about it, there obviously were benefits to going to the NFL and leaving school. But the more I thought about it, the more God just guided me back to school. No matter what I did, no matter what I thought about it, I could not get behind myself 100 percent leaving school early.”
Whether it’s making tough decisions in life or on the football field, Sam says it all comes down to relationship.
“I know that regardless of whether we win a game, lose a game, whether the whole state wants to kill me, whether there’s 8,000 fans booing me when I walk off that field, that there’s someone that, when I go home, I can talk to and have a conversation and a relationship with; and someone who will love me regardless of what I do,” Sam said. “I really don’t see a reason why you wouldn’t want to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. I mean, not only was He the greatest human being to ever walk the earth, He’s everything that I want to strive for. He’s everything that anyone should ever want to strive for. You look at the things that He did. Everyone who’s on this earth was blessed because of Him. To come into this world and to deny Him the opportunity to have a relationship with you, is almost a slap in the face to Him.”
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