- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2009

Sam Bradford strolled through Manhattan by himself the day after winning the Heisman Trophy. He wore a baseball cap, blended in with the New Yorkers and hardly got noticed.

He returned to Oklahoma the following day, attended practice, then walked across campus without signing a single autograph or posing for a picture.

Florida’s Tim Tebow hasn’t had a weekend like that in years.

Bradford and Tebow are the only sophomores to win the Heisman, have enjoyed record-setting seasons and have carried No. 2 Oklahoma and top-ranked Florida to the Bowl Championship Series national title game.

They have little else in common.

The standout quarterbacks have different backgrounds, different passing styles, different NFL projections and different ways of handling fame. They will have different results in the title game Thursday night, too.

“They might be worlds apart, but clearly they do a lot of the same things,” Sooners defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “They’re both great players, and they have great teams surrounding them.”

The son of a former Oklahoma offensive lineman, Bradford grew up rooting for the Sooners in Oklahoma City and always knew he wanted to play in nearby Norman. He might not have envisioned star status, but he’s trying to adjust to that much like he has his newfound Cherokee connection.

Bradford is a registered Cherokee, four generations removed from the last full-blooded Native American in his family. He was raised with little exposure to Native American customs and culture, but the Cherokee Nation has embraced him as one of its own - and looks to him as a hero.

Tebow was born in the Philippines, and the son of missionaries has made countless trips back to visit schools, marketplaces and the orphanage his father founded. He has taken similar mission trips to Croatia and Thailand, has visited state prisons in Florida and rarely turns down an opportunity to speak about his strong Christian beliefs.

“I want to do everything in my power that football gives me to influence as many people as I can for the good because that’s gonna mean so much more when it’s all said and done than just playing football and winning championships,” Tebow said.

Bradford and Tebow have made winning look easy - in different ways, of course.

Bradford, a 6-foot-3, 218-pound right-hander, has thrown for 4,464 yards and a nation-leading 48 touchdowns this season while helping Oklahoma’s offense become one of the most prolific in college football history. The Sooners have scored at least 60 points in their last five games, something no team had accomplished since 1919.

Even though he rarely leaves the pocket, Bradford has been sacked only 11 times and has thrown just six interceptions. He prefers to go through his progressions, taking an extra second to find his third or fourth receiver rather than trying to make something happen with his legs.

“I couldn’t ask for a better offensive line,” said Bradford, who edged Texas’ Colt McCoy and Tebow for the Heisman last month. “I hardly got touched this year. They do so many things to get our offense going. If you see some of the holes they open for our run game, it’s pretty ridiculous. I think I could probably run through them. They’re the guys who make this offense go.”

Tebow is equally quick to praise his teammates. But there’s little question he has been a big reason the Gators have made the title game twice in the last three years.

The 6-4, 240-pound left-hander with a knack for scrambling out of the pocket and running over defenders was a catalyst in goal-line and short-yardage situations in 2006. He has done much more since.

He threw for 3,286 yards and 32 touchdowns last season, and ran for 895 yards and 23 scores. He became the first underclassman to accept college football’s most prestigious award and prompted Florida coach Urban Meyer to call him “the best quarterback of our era.”

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