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University of Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford leaves the Sequoyah Schools gym with his mother, Martha, following a ceremony that honored the Heisman Trophy winner.

Photo by Christina Good VoiceCherokee Nation Honors Heisman HeroApril 22, 2009By Christina Good Voice Your rating: Select ratingCancel ratingPoorOkayGoodGreatAwesomeAverage: 5 (4 votes) EmailPrintTAHLEQUAH, Okla.

— Fans of the University of Oklahoma's quarterback and 2008 Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford lined up April 17 at the front doors of a high school gym hours early just to catch a glimpse of their Cherokee hero.

Chelsea Ross, 16, a Coweta, Okla., resident, waited in line for more than an hour."I'm his biggest fan," Ross said.

"He inspires other kids to play football and do what they're good at." Another fan, Ashley Proctor, 21, traveled from a small rural community north of Tahlequah to see Bradford, who is a 22-year-old Oklahoma City native.

"We need more role models like him," Proctor said.

"He's a great player and he's part of our Nation.

He's Cherokee.

That's the biggest reason why we all came to see him."Bradford Came With a Lesson and to LearnBradford, a Cherokee citizen, and his parents, Kent and Martha, spent the day visiting with students and tribal leaders and touring the Cherokee Heritage Center, all of which culminated in an honoring ceremony hosted by the Cherokee Nation for the junior quarterback.

"There's a lot of reasons I came here," Bradford said.

"I realize that God's given me a great platform.

I think my Native American roots extend that platform even more."Bradford visited students at Sequoyah Schools, which has grades seven through 12.He repeated his message to students to do well in school and work hard at what they love to do.

Bradford, who is a finance major at OU, has a 3.95 grade point average, and is an honor student in addition to everything else on his plate.

Principal Chief Hosts Q&A Session"There's a difference between talking the talk and walking the walk," he said.

"Obviously, I know I'm Native American and I'm proud of it.

But beyond knowing that I have roots in this culture, I don't know much more than that.

For me to come here today, is just a way for me to learn more about the culture.

I think it gives me an opportunity to become more active and use the platform that God has given me to share my story with young kids here tonight."At the special ceremony, Principal Chief Chad Smith held a question-and-answer session with Bradford and his father.

"Sam is the first Cherokee Nation citizen to win the Heisman Trophy," Smith said.

"His leadership style and skill with the Oklahoma Sooners football team have made him a positive role model and an inspiration to Native American youth across the nation."One of Smith's questions to Bradford was if he ever gets discouraged, and if so, how he copes.

Sitting Idle was One of Bradford's ChallengesBradford then shared a story about one of the toughest times he's had in his life.

"I think a lot of people see all the recent success me and my teammates have had, and think that it's been a really nice road and everything's been perfect since the day I got to OU," Bradford said.

"But that's not the case at all.

My freshman year was probably the toughest couple of months I've ever had in my life."Bradford has been an athlete since he was 5, and he's always been on the starting team.

"I've never had to sit the bench," he said.

"When I got to OU, I wasn't getting to play.

They were redshirting me.

At the time, in my mind I know it was the right thing.

I know I wasn't ready to play.

I know I didn't belong on the field at the time, but it was still really hard for me."Despite being redshirted, Bradford still awoke at 5 a.m.

each morning for workouts, and was yelled at each morning by the strength coaches "for no reason."Heisman Winner Thought of Quitting Football "I'd go to practice and wasn't getting to play," he said.

"I was just miserable and I hated it.

There were a couple of times where I was just like, 'forget it.

I'm done with it.

Football's not for me.

Those people were right; I'm not good enough to be here."But after thinking long and hard about the possibility of quitting, and after discussions with his parents, Bradford realized he couldn't do it because he wasn't a quitter."That's not me at all," he said.

"I'd never quit in anything I'd done in my life, and I sure didn't want to quit now.

I didn't want all those people who'd doubted me, who'd doubted my abilities to be right.

"I wanted to prove them wrong.

To get through (those times) it took a lot of leaning on God and talking to him, and knowing that he had something in store for me and trusted that it was going to pay off."Bradford has awards including the Davey O'Brien Award, Sammy Baugh Trophy, Chic Harley Award, and the AP and Sporting News First Team All-American.

Christina Good Voice, Muscogee (Creek), Choctaw and Rosebud Lakota, is a reporter at the Cherokee Phoenix tribal newspaper in Tahlequah, Okla.

She is a member of the board of directors of the Native American Journalists Association.

A 2001 graduate of the American Indian Journalism Institute, Good Voice had reporting internships at The Associated Press bureaus in Columbia, S.C., and Oklahoma City.

Good Voice has writen for reznet since 2002.

She writes about fashion, daily life, kids, family and the economy.

To send Christina Good Voice a message please click here
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