December 10, 2008

Bradford like Thorpe, Obama

Native son:  Okla. QB Bradford brings pride to CherokeesThe Sooners' star is four generations removed from the last full-blooded Native American in his family, and his suburban rearing came with little exposure to American Indian culture. But he's Indian nonetheless, a registered Cherokee. And Saturday's prospective Heisman coronation—near the end of a season in which Bradford has led No. 1-ranked Oklahoma to the cusp of a national championship—is momentous and moving for many Native Americans.

"It opens everything up for us," says Ray Brady, a Riverside junior and tight end on the football team. "Like Obama becoming President."

Nearly a century has passed since Jim Thorpe, a Sac and Fox Indian also born in Oklahoma, began shaping his legend as the greatest all-around athlete the modern world has seen. It has been 44 years since Billy Mills, a Sioux, ran to a 10,000-meter gold medal in the 1964 Olympics. They remain the standards of Native American athletic excellence.

Elders like J.R. Cook, a Cherokee who heads United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY), an Oklahoma City-based agency designed "to foster the spiritual, mental, physical, and social development" of young American Indians and Alaska Natives, rank Bradford right behind them.

"It's not just that he's a college football player," Cook says. "He's the quarterback, a team leader. He's admired by his peers and coaches. They speak very highly of him. … And being a serious contender for the Heisman, that's not happened before."

He adds, "It's a little sad that you have to go back 40-some years to find a role model of this quality."
Comment:  For more on Bradford the athlete, see The New Jim Thorpe and Cherokee Quarterback Leads Sooners. For more on Bradford the role model, see Native Athletes Who Do Good and Jocks Aren't Good Role Models.

1 comment:

dmarks said...

There is at least some irony in the concept of a Cherokee Sooner.