- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sam Bradford’s right shoulder aches. Tim Tebow is still clearing the cobwebs after suffering a concussion. As for Colt McCoy, the last Heisman Trophy finalist standing, he’s probably feeling sympathy pains in his neck, which he injured severely enough as a freshman to be carted off the field and whisked to the hospital.

Nobody would have been surprised if the three of them had moved on to the NFL this season. How much more resume padding, after all, could they do? Bradford won the Heisman last year and led Oklahoma to the BCS title game. Tebow won the Heisman the year before and has helped Florida capture two national championships. McCoy, meanwhile, played every bit as well as they did last season, finished second in the Heisman voting and might have made it to the championship game himself if Texas hadn’t been chop-blocked by the BCS computer.

But here they are, still subjecting themselves to blindside blitzes by linebackers smelling of Clearasil. Instead of playing for pay this season, the three quarterbacks decided, sentimental fools that they are, to return to college to complete their careers. But this is football, not badminton. OU’s opener wasn’t even half over when their QB sprained the AC joint in his throwing shoulder against BYU (now referred to in the Bradford household as B”Why?”U). Two weeks ago, Tebow was added to the casualty list when, during a sack, his helmet conked against the knee of one of his blockers.

Which raises the question: Is it too late for McCoy to apply for the NFL’s supplemental draft?

You have to wonder whether a top quarterback prospect will ever again do what these three have done: put off pro ball for a year and continue to stick their chinstraps out for dear old Siwash. I mean, a college education is a wonderful thing - astrophysics, nuclear engineering, Coaching Principles and Strategies of Basketball - but is it worth risking a career-altering injury for, an injury that could cost you tens of millions of dollars?

They all had their reasons for not leaving the college womb. Bradford was reluctant to give up something he had dreamed about since he was a kid - quarterbacking the Sooners. Tebow said he saw himself as a role model and “a lot of times people start things and don’t finish them. I don’t want to be like that.” McCoy was attached to the coaching staff and thought it would be cool to be one of the select few Longhorns to start for four years.

And being young and invincible, of course, they figured the NFL - and the money - would always be there. But they forgot that, this season, they’d have the biggest bull’s-eyes on their backs in college football. They forgot that the spread offense, which they all run, has never been overly concerned with protecting the passer. Most of all, they forgot that, as Sun Tzu once said, “You only go around once in life, so you have to grab for all the gusto you can get.” (Or did that come from a Schlitz commercial?)

You would have thought Matt Leinart’s not-so-excellent adventures after returning to USC for his senior year would have convinced at least one of the quarterbacks to go pro. Leinart, you may recall, had just won the Heisman/national title double and was the object of much salivation by NFL GMs. He had also been redshirted, so he had already spent the requisite four years fending off coeds and shooting beers.

But Leinart opted to stick around for another season and… you know the rest. The Trojans didn’t win another BCS championship, he didn’t win another Heisman and he ended up being not the first player picked in the NFL Draft but the 10th - by the Cardinals. Why? Because, among other things, teams wondered whether he might be too much of a ditz, too much of a party boy - if he might be Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski in shoulder pads.

A few years later, a photo popped up on the Internet of Leinart kicking back in a Jacuzzi, surrounded by a veritable offensive line of bikini-clad babes. That pretty much clinched that he was “The Dude” in shoulder pads. Now in his fourth season with Arizona, he’s still backing up Kurt Warner (when he isn’t, presumably, driving his SUV to the top of some distant mesa, where no one can hear, and screaming at the top of his lungs, “What were you thinking, Matt?”)

Bradford might play against Baylor this weekend… or he might not. The same goes for Tebow against LSU. Here’s hoping the rest of their season - and McCoy’s - is ambulance-free. It would also be nice if, in the future, they steered clear of Jacuzzis and cell phone cameras, just in case.

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