Norman, Okla. When Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford injured his shoulder last month, one of the first people he heard from was Colt McCoy.
And, no, the Texas quarterback wasn’t trying to tease his Oklahoma counterpart.
McCoy sent a get-well text message to Bradford the night of Sept. 5 and now says he’s happy the Sooners’ All-American is healthy again — just in time to make things more difficult for the third-ranked Longhorns (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) today in the latest installment of the Red River Rivalry.
“I think that probably from a fan’s perspective and people outside of the game think that it’s crazy that I could be friends with Sam or that Sam could be friends with me, but we are, and he’s a great guy,” said McCoy, who finished second to Bradford in last year’s Heisman balloting. “We’ve got a lot in common. But we both understand this is a huge game.
“We’re going to go out there and play the best we can. We know what we have to do to go out there and win. Our friendship is one thing but this game is another.”
It’s not like Bradford and McCoy don’t understand what’s at stake when the No. 20 Sooners (3-2, 1-0) and Longhorns meet halfway at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. The two have split their two head-to-head meetings so far, and it was only by virtue of a tiebreaker that Bradford’s Sooners got to play for the Big 12 and national titles last season instead of McCoy’s Longhorns.
Both players grew up around this rivalry, which has escalated over the past decade as its impact on the national championship race has grown.
But, to the chagrin of some die-hard fans and even teammates, the Bradford and McCoy friendship doesn’t quite mesh with the Hatfield and McCoy nature of the rivalry.
“Colt’s a great guy and I think him sending me a text message after I got hurt, telling me that he was praying for me, to stay with it and keep my head up, that just says a lot about the type of guy he is,” Bradford said. “I think a lot of people see us going to rival schools, you know, and probably wouldn’t have done that.
“For him to do something like that and to keep encouraging me, it just says a lot about who he is.”
The opposing quarterbacks got to know each other through the college awards circuit last season, with Bradford winning the Heisman and the Davey O’Brien Award. McCoy was the Walter Camp Player of the Year. Their friendship then grew over the summer as they roomed together at the Manning quarterback camp.
“We stay in touch,” McCoy said. “It’s been tough since the season started, we’re both really busy with school and football. It’s kind of our life right now. But we do stay in touch a little bit.”
Gerald McCoy, the Sooners’ standout defensive tackle who’s not related to the Texas QB, said he cringed at first when he saw the two acting all chummy on TV.
“When I first seen the little story on ESPN, I was like, ‘Sam, really?”’ Gerald McCoy said, before admitting he considers former Texas defensive tackle Roy Miller a close friend. “Football’s fun, and why not be friends with another star. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Each of the quarterbacks said they get some ribbing about being friends, but that’s not going to drive them apart.
“I get that from my teammates some, but I think they realize that in the end, we’re both football players and obviously we’re trying to beat each other,” Bradford said. “But at the same time, we can help each other in a lot of different ways. We play a lot of the same teams this year, our offenses are fairly similar. So, helping each other out, we can do that.”
There’s no telling how much more could be on the line this week if Bradford had stayed healthy. Oklahoma has a pair of one-point losses already, and would need plenty of help to get back in the national championship race.
“The guy last year was the best player in college football,” Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. “How can he not make a difference?”