St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford was back in Norman on Tuesday and Wednesday for the Sam Bradford Football ProCamp, getting a chance to play the role of coach for a couple of days.
Bradford, a Heisman-winning quarterback during his time at the University of Oklahoma, taught campers fundamentals, quarterback techniques and even played with and threw passes to some of them during the two-and-a-half hour per day camp.
"I've seen quite a few kids that look pretty impressive, especially on Tuesday," Bradford said. "I got to play seven-on-seven with them. One kid made a really nice touchdown catch. I didn't throw a great ball and he went over a kid and got it."
Out of the hundreds of participating campers, Bradford said he hoped some of them would go on to achieve great things.
"I think the kids are having fun," Bradford said. "Hopefully they stay with it, and hopefully there is a Heisman trophy winner out there."
With the kids calling him "Coach Bradford" for the duration of the camp, the idea of coaching down the road is something Bradford said he's not ready to think about just yet.
"Hopefully that's a long time from now, hopefully I'm not making that decision anytime soon, but it's definitely something I would have to think about," Bradford said. "Obviously, football is something that's been a big part of my life for a long time now, and when I stop playing, I think it would be tough to completely walk away from the game."
Although not ready to coach, Bradford said he is very comfortable working with the kids. He also said he fondly remembers his times as a child when all he did was play sports all day.
"It was one of the greatest times of my life, because I swear I woke up every morning and went and played sports all day, went to bed, and then woke up and did it again," Bradford said. I drove some of my friends nuts, because every time they came over, we didn't sit down for a second, we were always outside doing something."
Bradford said one of his favorite camp memories as a child was attending the OU basketball camp.
"I remember coming down to OU basketball camp, and just getting to work with some of the OU players when I was younger, and that was just the greatest thing in the world," he said. "Hopefully these kids are having as much fun at this camp as I did when I was younger and going to camps."
Bradford spends a lot of time in Norman during the NFL offseason, often working out at OU. He said he speaks to current Sooners quarterback Landry Jones fairly regularly when he's in town.
Jones decided to return to OU for his senior season, despite having had a chance to be a first-round NFL draft pick this past April. Bradford said he thought Jones made the right decision.
"Obviously, it was his decision, and as long as he feels like he made the right decision, then he did," Bradford said. "It's only up to him."
Bradford surely understands the type of pressure from both sides Jones faced in making the decision. Bradford could have left after his sophomore season, but elected to go back to school for his junior year.
"I remember going through that process, and people were trying to tell me 'oh, you should leave' or 'you should stay'," he said. "But, at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter what they think, they're not the one that's going to live it."
Jones comes back to high expectations. After a disappointing 2011 season during which the Sooners missed the BCS, OU is expected to compete for a national championship and Jones could contend for the Heisman.
"It doesn't matter what kind of year it is, if you play quarterback for Oklahoma, there's going to be a lot of pressure," Bradford said. "Especially in a year where you're ranked as highly as they are right now.
"But, I think Landry has always done a great job handling it. He plays well week in and week out, and I don't expect that to change."
Bradford himself has a challenging season ahead of him. Things haven't been easy for the quarterback since being drafted No. 1 overall by the St. Louis Rams in 2010.
Last season, the Rams went 2-14, and Bradford missed six games due to injury. In his 26 games, Bradford has been sacked 70 times.
There is reason for optimism, however. Jeff Fisher has taken over as the head coach, and Bradford said Fisher's experience and winning pedigree should help the team improve.
"Just having Coach Fisher there I feel is something that's really going to help our organization," Bradford said. "He's a coach who has been in the league and has been winning games for a long time now. I think the changes that were made this year in the offseason are definitely going to help us win games."