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Celebrity Close-Up
Oct 26, 2011


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Young Gun

In the heat and pressure of an NFL season, Sam Bradford shows he’s made of steel.
Story: By Amy de la Hunt
Photos: Photos by Tuan Lee

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When Sam Bradford turns 24 on Nov. 8, the only thing on his mind will be week 10 of his second NFL season. The birthday celebration will have to wait until after the Rams play their final game of the year—because their starting quarterback is strictly business.

Bradford’s rookie year in 2010 was marked by highlights—a record number of passes completed by a first-year QB (354), the Rams’ Rookie of the Year award, the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award and a perfect record for taking every snap. He threw a string of 174 passes without an interception, another NFL rookie record, and led the team to seven wins, setting expectations high for his second year.

Then he was knocked out of the first 2011 game with an injured finger. If you were superstitious—and Bradford admits he is—it could have been an omen that Season 2 was not going to be an easy one.

Even after his successful college career as an Oklahoma Sooner, which included two national championship games and a Heisman Trophy as a sophomore, Bradford has found that being a Ram doesn’t come without its challenges. All the team’s fans (not to mention the coaches and his fellow players) are waiting to start the year. Based on his leadership during the lockout over the summer, when he helped run practices and implement a new offensive approach without
any coaches present, it’s clear that Bradford is up to the challenge.

For an ultra-competitive guy like Bradford, the best way to overcome a tough schedule and on-field miscues is to practice harder, watch more film and go over more game plans. That’s why his daily routine involves driving his “dream pickup” (a black crew-cab Ford F150 4x4) to work and back…and, at least for now, not much else. Not even his off-season passion for golf will get in the way; Bradford left his clubs in his native Oklahoma City when he returned to St. Louis for training camp.

The quarterback sounds more like a young workaholic than a first-round draft pick who signed a six-year, $78 million deal. With a maximum value of $86 million, it’s the largest ever for an NFL rookie. But Bradford also sounds like the kind of hard-working guy you’d want leading your team as you rebuild toward every player’s dream—the Super Bowl.

ALIVE: How do you like St. Louis?
Sam Bradford: I actually really like it here. St. Louis is much larger than Oklahoma City, so I’m kind of having to adjust to living in a bigger city. Sometimes the traffic is a little much. I wish I had been here a little bit more in the off-season so I could have explored more, because during the season, I pretty much go from my house [in Clayton] to work and back every day, so that’s about all I see.

ALIVE: You went back to Oklahoma after last season?
SB: I have a house in Norman, which is where the university is. I moved back in with my college roommates, so that was good.

ALIVE: Was it a little surreal, too?
SB: Yeah, it was definitely a little weird because I have a condo here and it’s a lot nicer than my college house! [Laughs.] So going back really made me miss St. Louis at times.

ALIVE: What helps you feel more at home here?
SB: One of my buddies from back home moved up here with me, and that makes it nice to come home every night and have somebody to talk to and take my mind off football.

ALIVE: Did playing in the NFL live up to your expectations?
SB: Until you actually spend seven days a week for six months straight for however many hours a day looking at film and going over game plans, I don’t think it’s anything you can really prepare for. It takes so much time and effort to get prepared to play on Sundays, and then you have to go out and execute if you want to be a great player.

ALIVE: Has learning the new offense this year been a challenge?
SB: Last year, being a rookie, there were so many other things that I had to understand—defenses we were seeing, game week—I wasn’t used to those and I didn’t know what I had to do to get prepared. Now, having gone through a full year, I’ve figured out a lot of the other things, so it allowed me to concentrate on the offense this year.

ALIVE: What about rookie hazing?
SB: I thought it was going to be a lot worse than it was! A.J. [Feeley], the veteran at my position, was really laid back. There were some other guys on the team whose position veterans made it a lot harder for them than I had it!

ALIVE: Has A.J. been a mentor for you?
SB: Yeah, A.J.’s been awesome. He’s been in the league now for 11 years, so he’s seen a lot of things. Pretty much everything I’m going through he’s gone through at some point, so it’s always nice to have someone there for you to bounce things off of, especially someone who has that learning experience.

ALIVE: How about some of the other veteran players?
SB: Steven [Jackson, running back and team captain] has been another guy who’s been really helpful since Day 1. He told me he had my back and was going to support me in everything I did. There were times last year when he’d pull me aside and tell me things he was seeing that I could do better or that I was doing a good job of.

ALIVE: Who was your childhood quarterback hero?
SB: Kordell Stewart. I collected football cards, and somehow I really got into the Steelers. I liked Kordell because they called him “Slash.” He could run and throw and all of that.

ALIVE: And now you’re playing against some of the people you looked up
to as a kid.
SB: Every week, I line up against guys who’ve been in the league seven, eight, 10 years. Last year in Week 3, we played against Washington, and Donovan McNabb was playing quarterback. I thought it was pretty surreal. Even though you always want to win, I enjoy watching them because there are things I can pick up from them.

ALIVE: Do you have any superstitions before the game?
SB: There’s a lot of them! For one, I never wear socks before a game.

ALIVE:
What are things outside football that you’re interested in?
SB: I like to play a lot of golf during the off-season. Anytime the weather is halfway decent and warm enough for me to be outside, I’m probably at the golf course.

ALIVE: You were a high school basketball and golf star, too. How did you pick football?
SB: My dad played football at Oklahoma, and I grew up going to all the games—we had season tickets—so it was always my dream to play football there. When I had the opportunity to do that, I knew it’s what I wanted to do.

ALIVE: This is ALIVE’s Men of Style issue...
SB: Wow! [Laughs.]

ALIVE: So we’d like to talk about your personal style. Let’s start with your haircut.
SB: I grow it out every year.

ALIVE: You don’t get it cut during the season?
SB: I don’t get it cut. I have a bet with a couple of teammates that the first one to cut their hair loses, so I can’t lose.

 


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