BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
I wonder if Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford is re-thinking his decision to return to school for his senior year after sustaining a shoulder injury in the Sooners opening game 14-13 loss to Brigham Young.
Bradford, who threw for 50 touchdowns and only eight interceptions last season leading Oklahoma to the BCS Championship game, was considered a top five NFL pick in the 2009 draft. He appears to have left millions of dollars on the table.
Bradford's injury reminds me of when Miami Hurricanes quarterback Jim Kelly injured his shoulder in 1982 against Virginia Tech and was sidelined for the season. Kelly did rehabilitate his shoulder and had his own pro day in Coral Gables. He was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the first round in 1983.
Meanwhile, USC Heisman Trophy Winner Matt Leinart was considered a top prospect in the 2005 NFL Draft after his Trojans won the national title with a 55-19 thrashing of Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl leading them to a 22-game winning streak. Leinart came back for another season. The Trojans reached the BCS title game and lost to Texas and Vince Young in the Rose Bowl. USC had a 35-game winning streak but Leinart dropped to 10th in the 2006 NFL Draft to the Arizona Cardinals. Young was drafted ahead of Leinart and was the third player selected going to the Tennessee Titans.
Leinart is currently the Cardinals backup behind Kurt Warner and like Bradford, his check book took a financial hit.
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford cashed in on Bradford's decision to stay in school with a contract that guaranteed him $41.7 million (the most guaranteed to any player in NFL history) and the total value is $78 million. It's safe to say that if the former Georgia Bulldog wants to get his degree after leaving as a junior, he'll be able to pay his tuition. In any economy let alone a bad one, Stafford looks like a genius.
What makes Bradford's decision even more intriguing is if his thought process was to come back and win a national title after losing 24-14 to Florida on January 8, those hopes took a jolt at Cowboys Stadium in the Sooners loss to BYU.
I'll never criticize a player for going back to school but that can wait when there is plenty of money out there.
In Kelly's case, I don't recall an under graduate rule so the only options were the defunct USFL and the Canadian Football League. Before signing with Buffalo in 1986, Kelly did play for the USFL's Houston Gamblers for two seasons in Mouse Davis' run-and-shoot offense amassing 9,842 yards and 83 touchdowns winning the league MVP in 1984. By developing his game under Davis' tutelage, Kelly guided Buffalo to four straight Super Bowls and that led to his induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002. I doubt Kelly would have left early playing for Howard Schnellenberger.
It will be interesting to see how Florida's Tim Tebow and Texas Colt McCoy fare in their senior seasons as they attempt to stay healthy as well as lead their teams to a national championship.
If both have excellent seasons they could become the next quarterback debate in the 2010 NFL draft.
Thus far, the move has backfired for Bradford unless he returns for the last half of the season and the Sooners get to a major bowl game plus he follows it up with a huge pro day following Kelly's example.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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