Like many Division-I athletes, Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford excelled at many sports growing up.
He played football, basketball and golf in high school, but it was the sport he quit in eighth grade that Bradford gave serious consideration to playing exclusively.
“I thought about moving away and concentrating on hockey for awhile,” Bradford said. “In hockey when you get older, Oklahoma City didn’t have the programs, so I thought about moving to Dallas or somewhere.”
Bradford played on travel teams that would go all across the Southwest as a youngster, and hockey was a game that always appealed to him. He was a Canucks fan growing up and owned a Pavel Bure jersey.
“It started when I was little, looking in the newspaper to see if the Canucks had won,” Bradford said.
When Bradford entered high school a decision had to be made, and football eventually won out. Since that time, it’s been full steam ahead.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve skated,” Bradford said.
Pat White’s athletic talents aren’t limited to the football field either.
West Virginia’s quarterback was a two-sport star coming out of Daphne High School in Alabama. As a pitcher and outfielder, White led his baseball team to two 6A state championships and was selected by the Anaheim Angels in the fourth round of the 2004 draft.
White said he briefly considered signing with the Angels but his love of football won out.
“I haven’t picked up a baseball bat since high school,” he said.
When asked about future plans, White didn’t rule out trying baseball again but said his mind is only on football for the time being.
As for testing the NFL waters, White, who has one year of eligibility remaining, won’t do that until next year.
“I’ll be back,” he said.
Judging from the body language of several West Virginia players, it’s clear that the Mountaineers aren’t about too pleased being the underdog in the Fiesta Bowl. But no one has said as much.
In fact, it seems they are overly cautious about not providing Oklahoma with any bulletin board material and are eager to sing their opponents’ praises.
White described the Sooners as “the best I’ve seen.”
Free safety Ryan Mundy said West Virginia hasn’t played any team comes close to comparing to Oklahoma.
“Not with their balance,” Mundy said. “They throw the ball well, so we can say they’re like Louisville because Louisville threw the ball well. They run the ball well, too, and we can say Rutgers ran the ball well. There’s not one team that has the balance they do.”
Oklahoma’s respect for West Virginia is returned, at least as far as video games are concerned. Several of the Sooners players like to use the Mountaineers when playing “NCAA Football ‘08” for video game consoles.
“I thought that was neat,” West Virginia offensive lineman Ryan Stanchek said. “I think they’re the best defense in the country, so I’d use their defense on the game, also.”
West Virginia free safety Ryan Mundy: A transfer from Michigan, the 6-foot-1 graduate student made an immediate impact in the secondary this season, leading the Mountaineers in pass breakups (seven) and tying for the team lead in interceptions (three). Also excellent at closing in the open field, Mundy finished fourth in tackles with 51.
Oklahoma wide receiver Malcolm Kelly: A big, physical receiver with soft hands, Kelly is tough to handle for opposing defenses. He is second on the team in receptions (49), receiving yards (821) and touchdown catches (9). Kelly averages 16.8 yards per reception.