Long ago, okay so maybe not that long ago, but six years ago, before there was talk of if Tim Tebow would make the final roster, before DeMarco Murray opted to sign with Philly and not Dallas, before Sam Bradford went a perfect 10-for-1o in a preseason game and took first-team reps with Riley Cooper, these four individuals who have more in common than just being members of the Philadelphia Eagles, took the field together for the first but certainly not last time on a cold day in January for the 2009 FedEx BCS National Championship between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Florida Gators.
For Bradford, his 2008-09 sophomore season was a thing of beauty. He finished the year with 4,720 yards passing, 50 touchdowns to just eight interceptions, 67.9 percent completion rate and a staggering, astronomical 180.8 passer rating. At the time, Bradford’s Sooners were the highest scoring team in college history, finishing the year with 716 points, averaging over 50 points a game, and becoming the first team in almost 90 years to score at least 60 points in five straight games. As a result of the historic season and Bradford’s own incredible nation-leading stats, the now Eagles starting QB became the fifth Oklahoma player to win the Heisman. He was the second sophomore quarterback in a row to win the award, the first of course, being Tebow, who finished third in the 2008-09 voting to Bradford.
Back-to-back Heisman winners, facing off for just the second time in college football history, the first in a national championship game, Bradford and Tebow led their near-perfect squads to Dolphin Stadium in Miami, Florida, to decide the winner of the coveted crystal football. Oklahoma was the top seed in the game, Florida the second. Both were coming off of tremendous seasons.
But Oklahoma was also dealing with an injury, that being to starting runningback, DeMarco Murray. Murray was in the midst of what would be the second best year of his collegiate career, having run for 1,002 yards and 14 touchdowns before being leaving in the middle of the team’s game against cross-town rival Oklahoma State with an injury. He would go on to miss the final two games of the season.
Losing Murray was a big loss for the Sooners and their average of 198.5 rushing yards a game. Without their star, the team only managed to record 107 yards on the ground to Florida’s crushing 248. Bradford tried to make up for the absence of the ground game in the air, throwing the ball 41 times for a total of 256 yards. He tossed two touchdowns and two interceptions and put in a season-worst 50.2 QBR.
Tebow meanwhile shined in large part because of Percy Harvin. The wide receiver turned running back turned wide receiver, rushed for over 100 yards and tied Aaron Hernandez as the team’s leading pass-catcher with five receptions for 49 yards. He also had the rushing touchdown in the third quarter that gave Florida the 14-7 lead. The team didn’t look back after that and either led or had a share of the lead for the rest of the game.
Cooper, who had gotten the reputation of being a low-volume target guy, still managed to record 261 yards and average of 14.5 per game in the regular season. In the championship, Tebow connected with him twice for 19 yards.
The final score of the game, 24-14, went in favor of Florida and Tebow, who despite throwing a career high two interceptions, out-dueled Bradford en route to his second national championship in three years.
Six years ago.
Things are little different now. All four are sharing the same jersey colors, taking the same field and playing for the same team that much is certain. This time though, Bradford isn’t going to be out-dueled by anybody, Murray is 100 percent healthy and coming off of the best year in his life, Tebow is merely fighting for a job in what could be his last chance to make an NFL team and Cooper has yet to catch a pass in the preseason proving his status as a low-volume… Okay, well, not everything is different.
Point being, taking the field for the Eagles will be two sets of teammates and college roommates who took part in the same championship game. To say that is rare would be an understatement.