Maybe there was doubt before Monday as to where Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford and tight end Jermaine Gresham would get drafted, but a 30-minute throwing session ended all speculation.


Maybe there was doubt before Monday as to where Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford and tight end Jermaine Gresham would get drafted, but a 30-minute throwing session ended all speculation.

Afterward, it was tough to see Bradford as anything but the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, and Gresham, an Ardmore High School alumnus, as much less than a first-rounder.

With fellow first-round shoe-in Gerald McCoy rooting them on from the sidelines, Bradford completed his individual workout at the University of Oklahoma’s Everest Training Center in front of droves of NFL scouts, coaches and general managers. A noticeably thicker Bradford, who weighed in at 236 pounds, threw a variety of 63 pinpoint passes to Gresham, tight end Brody Eldridge, running back Chris Brown, wide receiver Adron Tennell and NFL free agent wideout Josh Reed.

One pass hit the ground, via the hands of Tennell. Coming off of right shoulder surgery, Bradford was near flawless.

And what about Gresham, Bradford’s top target who most projected as the top tight end in this year’s draft class? The 6-foot-6, 259-pounder only caught passes on Monday, but showed no ill affects or rust from missing the entire 2009 season due to September knee surgery. His cuts were sharp and at full speed and his hands were soft and welcoming of Bradford’s bull’s-eye throws.

No play exemplified the Gresham-Bradford connection greater than a deep route down the left sideline lined with NFL personnel. Before throwing, Bradford politely asked the group to move back a few steps, then unleashed while Gresham accelerated and caught a perfect strike over his shoulder at full speed.

“Though it took time to heal, it’s something that should not give him any problems,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said of Gresham. “Everyone knows the talent he is, and there’s an awful lot of game film to watch of him from the other three years. He’s worked out well for everybody and he’s in good shape.”

Gresham’s full recovery was evident in his confidence on both the sideline and the field. Gresham’s knee looked just fine when caught breaking out a jubilant dance after the session. It was far from what you’d expect from a player who’s had surgery on both knees since high school.

“This knee was a whole lot easier than the other knee,” said Gresham of his second rehab. “I’m back to 100 percent, I’ve been getting better every day conditioning-wise, so everything’s good.”

Pegged as a mid-to-late first-round selection, Gresham’s injury may have been a blessing in disguise. After a 2008 season in which he caught 66 passes for 960 yards and 14 touchdowns, earning him All-Big 12 honors and several All-American awards, Gresham was touted by some as a top-10 to -15 selection. He could still go that high, but odds are in a class heavy with high-end defensive linemen and offensive tackles, Gresham will drop to a more competitive team in the late first round.

That doesn’t bother him one bit.

“I really can’t say too much on that,” Gresham said. “I had an injury, so nothing’s given to you if you didn’t play the last season. I feel good right now and ready to compete.

“As long as I get an opportunity to play, it doesn’t matter to me.”

Neither did the prospect of playing far away from Ardmore. Gresham is firmly aware of the opportunity he has, and that no matter where his winds up, he’ll be playing for more than just himself.

“Oh, man, just for family and friends and the people that helped me. ... That town raised me, that means more than anything,” he said. “As long as I make it for them, make them happy and give them something to cheer for, I’ll be happy with that.”

At workout’s end, Gresham was happy — the recipient of smiles and handshakes from some of the NFL’s biggest movers and shakers. After Monday, “making it” became more than a reality.

More like a certainty.

Erik K. Horne
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