NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -As he walked up to a podium for his first appearance before reporters outside a postgame setting, Oklahoma's Sam Bradford got word from coach Bob Stoops that the quarterback had a new nickname: The Big Easy.
Like everything else in his stellar freshman season, Bradford took it in stride. He gave his coach a thumbs up, said the name of golfer Ernie Els - the more famous Big Easy - and went about a calm question-and-answer session.
Bradford's easygoing approach has been a constant while leading the No. 4 Sooners (7-1, 4-1 Big 12) this season. Believed to be the main question mark on an otherwise solid team, Bradford has developed into the nation's second-highest rated passer.
``He is very genuinely humble and likes to share the attention. It's just real natural for him,'' Stoops said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. ``He's a smart guy and he understands that it isn't just about him. There's a lot of people around him that are helping him that he's a product of. He's doing more than his share, I would say, but he also handles it in a great way.
``It's almost easy for him.''
M, he'll have a chance to break the school's freshman passing record of 2,018 yards set by Rhett Bomar two years ago.
But Bradford hasn't gotten carried away by his success. Sure, he gets recognized more often than when he came out of Putnam City North High School in Oklahoma City, but he said ``it's probably not as bad as you think it is.''
He doesn't take much interest in talk of whether he merits consideration for the Heisman Trophy or other national awards, and he never was impressed by the gaudy stats he put up in nonconference play (1,067 yards, 14 TDs, 2 INTs).
``That's kind of been my personality all growing up. I don't know if I get it from my dad, but he's pretty laid back too,'' Bradford said. ``I feel like there's a better way to play the game. Don't get too excited, don't get too down with the bad plays. Just try to keep your calm and keep playing.''
Bradford was a standout basketball player and golfer in high school, and his mental approach to football sounds more like it came from the back nine than the backfield.
``One of the things my dad always told me was, `Don't compete with anyone else but yourself.' That's kind of one of the things that I've grown up on,'' Bradford said. ``You always want to be better than you were last week. If you come out and you have a good game Saturday, that's all right but let's go get better, let's see what we could have done better.''
Stoops said he had seen some similarities between Bradford and Chuck Long, who was a Heisman Trophy runner-up as Stoops' teammate at Iowa and recruited Bradford to Oklahoma as the Sooners' offensive coordinator. Long is now the head coach at San Diego State.
``He reminded me always of a lot of Chuck's nature - just real easygoing but incredibly competitive without wearing it on his sleeve,'' Stoops said. ``He just really took things in stride and even the way he throws, the way he handles himself in the pocket, all of it really reminded me of him.''
Kevin Wilson, who replaced Long as the offensive coordinator, remembers his predecessor returning from one of Bradford's high school practices ``adamant'' the Sooners should go after him.
Now, the Sooners are reaping the benefits of Bradford's pursuit of perfection.
``I know he takes it real personal when it's not exactly right, and he plays a sport where it's seldom going to be exactly right,'' Wilson said.
``And what's neat too, he doesn't stress out where he makes it so hard where he beats himself up over it. He keeps pushing to be better, but he doesn't freak out when he makes a bad one and you see him totally tank it.''
Last week Bradford struggled in windy conditions in a 17-7 victory at last-place Iowa State and also criticized himself for some poor decision-making. He ended up 16-for-28 for 180 yards. His only interception deflected off his receiver's chest.
For Bradford, it was another step in a learning process.
``I know there's a lot of things I need to work on. There's a lot of things I can still see,'' Bradford said. ``Hopefully if I just get a little better each week, in a few years I'll be where I want to be.''

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