This happened two years ago today, by the way.
My freshman year of college, I made no bones about my borderline obsessive love of redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Bradford. He was tall, dark, handsome, and had lovely muscular arms. All in all, I thought he was perfect for me and I set out determined to meet him, woo him, and have him marry me, all before he inevitably left school for the NFL. The only problem was how and I immediately started planning our future together.
“I’ve made a decision.” I lowered myself into my usual seat. “I’m going to marry Sam Bradford,” I stated matter-of-factly.
My best friend Hailee rolled her eyes. “Umm, right. Well, when you meet him, can you give him my phone number?”
I smiled at her. “You can laugh all you want, but I just know that when he finally meets me, it’s going to be love at first sight.”
“You’ve put your finger on the biggest problem,” Hailee reasoned with me, always the logical thinker. “He has to actually see you.”
I scoffed. “Minor details. I’ll work out this meeting when I come to it.”
“Well, I wish you all the luck in the world.” There was only the slightest hint of sarcasm in that sentence “Because you’re basically going to have to stalk him to actually meet him.”
Once I made up my mind to do everything in my power to seek him out and orchestrate a “chance” meeting, I couldn’t wait to share my plan with everyone. I told all my coworkers that I really wanted to meet him and it wasn’t long before I became known as “That Girl Who Really Likes Sam Bradford” among other not as nice things that aren’t suitable to print. But had I known how my life was about to change, I might have further enjoyed the frivolity that came with my nicknames.
The week of Thanksgiving, my mother gave me news that would forever change my life – she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. The lump was small and could be taken care of with surgery and a few rounds of chemo, but being three hours away from your newly cancerous mother would be hard on anyone. I chose to channel my anxiety into meeting Sam. He would sign a football for my mother and maybe, just maybe, fall in love with me in the process.
Soon enough everyone who knew me knew of my love for that crimson clad number 14 and it was with great shock that a coworker, Christina, approached me one Sunday night at work with a plan of action.
“Your man Sam looked pretty good in the Big 12 game last night,” she said with a grin.
I nodded. “I was very proud of him. But then again, I always am.”
“So, umm…” Christina paused. “You still looking to meet up with him so he can sign a football for your mom?”
“Yeah!” I couldn’t express my determination with words.
Christina leaned into me. “He’s in my calculus class. I talked to him a few days ago and he’s really nice. I bet he wouldn’t have a problem if you just came to my class and talked to him before while he’s waiting in the hall. We meet in the Physical Sciences Center, room 212 on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 11:30.” She smiled largely at me. “So, you comin’ tomorrow?”
After work I rushed back to my dorm room and could barely find the air to tell my roommate the completely unexpected change of plans that could very possibly change my life. I set my alarm for the next morning for extra early so I could shower, fix my hair, and put on make up before my date with destiny.
I woke the next morning and immediately became nervous. I rehearsed what I would say while I got ready and a nest of butterflies settled itself in my stomach as I pulled on my favorite, softest grey sweater. As an afterthought, I clasped my white heart shaped Sooners necklace, thinking it would be a nice, subtle touch. I packed my silver Sharpie and my brand new miniature OU football in my bag and I set out for my meeting.
The normally quick fifteen-minute walk seemed to drag on, and the closer I got to the blender-shaped building, the more anxious I got. By the time I pulled the door open, my hands were shaking and it was all I could manage to not vomit everywhere.
I took a few steps into the lobby before I saw what I had come for. There he stood, six feet away from me in all his six-foot four-inch glory, hands slouched into the front pocket of his gray hoodie, a crimson baseball cap pulled low over his eyes. I could tell that he didn’t necessarily want to be recognized and I felt almost bad for what I was about to do. But not bad enough to completely back out.
A boy who had come in behind me walked straight up to my beloved and clapped him on the shoulder with a “Good game Saturday night, Sam!” Sam looked up at him from under his cap and gave him a lopsided smile.
“Thanks,” he said softly.
Bells rang, angels sang, and the entire world went fuzzy. It was the first time I had heard him speak in person and I felt my heart stop beating in my chest. When I reminded myself to breathe, my heart stuttered back into motion at super speed. I felt sure it would burst through my chest at any moment. He could hear it from where he was standing, I was sure, and before he noticed me, I ducked behind a partition.
All I needed was a little pep talk, something to convince me to just walk right up to him, introduce myself, and ask him to sign my football. Easy peasy.
I looked nervously over my shoulder to make sure he hadn’t vanished and took a deep breath. He’s just a normal person, I told myself. A normal person who would probably be very interested in meeting you. My positivity was working. I felt my courage increasing exponentially with every sentence I went through. I nodded. Yeah, yeah, this is no big deal. I’ve got this. I smiled, flipped my hair, and walked from behind the partition toward the love of my life.
I closed the gap quickly. I was six feet away, five, four, three, two. We made awkward eye contact. There he was! I veered suddenly to the right and walked past him and into the hall adjacent to the lobby. I took a long drink from the water fountain to hide my lack of nerves. I felt his eyes burning into the back of my head and my cheeks grew hot with my epic failure. I sighed, turned around, and prepared myself for try two. I repositioned my bag on my shoulder, and scanned the hallway where he had just been standing. The smile fell from my lips as I realized a problem – he was gone. He had completely evaporated when I had my back turned and now he was gone forever.
I sighed exasperatedly and prepared to trudge back to my dorm room, upset about the chance I hadn’t gotten. I don’t know what made me look over my left shoulder and into the classroom at the end of the hall, but I thanked God for whatever it was because there he sat, looking strangely juvenile in a tiny desk, his knees smashed against the top. He caught my eye and I gasped, turned on my heel, and headed back toward the lobby.
It became apparent that I needed a new plan of action. I had come this far, made awkward eye contact with him twice, and I was bound and determined not to leave until I had my football signed. I knew from Christina that the class was only 50 minutes long, so I decided on a whim that I would wait it out. There were benches in the lobby, so I picked one that conveniently had a good viewing angle of his classroom and started reading the newspaper.
I had made it through the entire paper about twice before the thought that he might leave class early and through a back route occurred to me. Trying to be nonchalant, I slowly lowered the left side of my newspaper and glanced down the hall to make sure he was still sitting there. He was paying attention, taking notes, and looked completely engrossed in his lesson. Seeing this, I decided it would be okay for me to just enjoy looking at him while I had the chance. I stared for about five minutes before he got distracted by something in the hallway, looked out the door, and caught my eye for a third time. I quickly flicked my newspaper back into position and willed my cheeks to lose their heat.
I had fallen into a strange kind of trance by the time I heard rustling from his classroom. I looked up quickly and saw him gathering his books in preparation to leave. I stood up, shoved my newspaper into the nearest trashcan, and awaited his arrival in the lobby. As soon as he stepped over the threshold of the door that separated the hall, I swallowed my fear, raised my right hand, and called, “Hey, Sam, do you have a minute?”
He looked around, confused, before he saw me grinning stupidly at him and shrugged in my direction. “What’s up?” he said, looking down at me.
I took a deep breath. “Hi Sam! My name is Meghan and today is my mom’s birthday and she has cancer and she really really loves you and so I was just wondering if maybe you wouldn’t mind signing this football for her for her birthday?” My carefully rehearsed speech came out in a rush and I found myself looking up at him, blinking in wait while he stared at me incredulously.
I could almost see the wheels turning in his head, struggling to make sense of what I had just said. “Sure,” he finally replied and took the football from my outstretched hands.
“Oh, that’s great!” I squealed and handed him my silver Sharpie. He took it from me, signed the football, carefully scribing the number 14 above his name, and handed it back to me with a grin.
“Here you go. I really hope your mom gets better. Tell her I said happy birthday.”
My breath caught in my throat and I couldn’t think of any words to say. “Thank you so much, Sam,” I finally managed to choke out. “This is going to make her day.”
He smiled and nodded at me and then held out his arms. I stepped into them willingly. His strong arms wrapped around my shoulders and I felt my heart jump. Those five seconds couldn’t have been any shorter and I felt him pull away much too quickly. We shared an awkward smile before he glanced at his phone.
“It was really nice meeting you,” he said apologetically, “but I have to go to class now.”
I shook my head. “No problem. Thanks again.”
He took a few steps before he turned around, like a second thought had entered his mind. “I really like your necklace, by the way.” He smiled lopsidedly at me, turned, and pushed the door open.
I watched him go, replaying our exchange until I had memorized every detail. Smiling, I returned to the bench I sat on to wait for Sam. Hailee was in a chemistry class in a room across the hall and I decided that my legs were still much too weak to make my way back across campus.
I twisted my necklace on its chain and sat in awe just remembering.
She emerged from the classroom and looked at me in surprise. “What are you doing on this side on campus?”
I gazed up at her. “I just…”
“Oh. My. God.” Her mouth fell open. “Did you just talk to Sam?”
All I could do was nod. “He said he liked my necklace.”
She scoffed. “That’s guy code for checking out your boobs.”
I shrugged as we headed out the door and toward our dorm. “Whatever. He was very nice.”
“I’m jealous.” She shook her head.
“Yeah, you should be.” I grinned.
Two years later, my encounter with Sam is still one of my favorite stories to tell. I cherish that crimson football with his name emblazoned in silver on the side. Even though he’s played his last game at OU, his legacy will definitely live on. To me especially.