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The rehab left Bradford's body visibly sturdier, but what happens when he gets hit? Pro days and private workouts are controlled environments, while the games are choreographed only until the snap. On a rebuilding team like St. Louis, which owns the first pick, Bradford's shoulder will be constantly tested against the chaos of an NFL pass rush. "The biggest question mark is that St. Louis offensive line and if it can protect him," says one scout. "But I've read the medical report, and it's like a new shoulder. He's not that lanky quarterback he was at Oklahoma. And he's hands down the best quarterback in this draft."
Says Andrews, "It's the same operation Troy Aikman had before he won his Super Bowls and the same procedure I did on Emmitt Smith. [Bradford] never had a hitch, never had any problems, and everything went perfect with his rehabilitation. I don't have any hesitation about saying he's ready to play NFL football."
Joe Theismann, whose playing career with the Washington Redskins ended in a broken leg, says the one thing he tells young quarterbacks is to learn to protect themselves. "You don't get medals in this business for getting yourself beat up," he says. "You have to be able to play and practice every day. When they're calling a quarterback a tough guy, that means he's taking a beating or has a crappy offensive line."
At 6'4" and 236, Bradford has the prototypical NFL quarterback build. In 2007 he set the NCAA record for touchdown passes by a freshman, with 36. Even with his truncated junior year, he left Oklahoma as its alltime leader in passing yards and touchdown passes. But Bradford also possesses something less tangible, the glint of a young man used to success. His hometown mayor approved a Sam Bradford Day. His high school has a Sam Bradford Drive running through campus. Days after he won the 2008 Heisman, he rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange: The Dow rose 100 points. "He's incredibly bright and talented, he has a great humility and spirit to him, and he's an example of great parenting," says Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.
"I'd love to take credit for it," says Wilson, Bradford's high school coach, "but he was that way when we got him."
When Bradford's pro day was over, the practice facility began to empty, the football men leaving campus for their draft rooms. Bradford and Stoops hopped into a golf cart and slowly pulled away. "I never thought [the injuries] were something he couldn't overcome," Stoops says. "When you look at his stats from his first two years, can you imagine what he might have done as a junior and a senior? He's only going to get better."
That, of course, will be determined later. For now, Kent is leaving the Everest facility too, and it is springtime on the Oklahoma plains. He'll know what the NFL guys think of his boy soon enough. What does Kent think?
"The thought that came to mind was just how Sam handled it all," he says. "You know how kids tell you they learn from their parents? In this case, and all last fall, I truly learned from him."