According to J.R. Cook, executive director of United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY), Bradford is believed to be the first quarterback with Native American roots to start for a major program since Sonny Sixkiller was setting records at Washington in the early '70s.
"Anyplace you go, you talk a little football," says Chad "Corntassel" Smith, principal chief of the Tahlequah, Okla.-based Cherokee Nation for the past eight years. "You talk OU and how they're back. And being led by a Cherokee."
Cook's Oklahoma City-based agency, designed "to foster the spiritual, mental, physical and social development" of young American Indians and Alaska Natives, started featuring Bradford on its website when he was named the Sooners' starter in August. A new Sports Page tracks him and other Native American athletes, such as Joba Chamberlain of the New York Yankees and Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox.
He is the first American Indian to play what amounts to the highest-profile position in this sports-crazed region.
“We take pride him,” said Raven Chong-Sang, an Oklahoma senior who belongs to the Muscogee and Seminole tribes. “A lot of kids look up to him, even if he might not realize they do.”
In an interview earlier this season, Bradford said he was only beginning to understand how his heritage and role on the team could have a profound impact.
His background, “really wasn’t something our family talked about a lot,” Bradford said. “I know who I am and I’m proud of who I am.”
Bradford’s father, Kent, was an Oklahoma offensive lineman from 1975-1978, lettering his final two seasons. He is one-eighth American Indian and said the attention his son is receiving could be beneficial in both directions.
“I think it’s truly a positive thing that he becomes more and more exposed to his heritage,” said Kent Bradford, president of Bradford-Irwin Insurance Agency, Inc., in Oklahoma City.