Quarterbacks from Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Tulsa are having an impact in the National Football League.
For decades before Bob Stoops became coach in 1999, the Sooners specialized in running quarterbacks that had little success in the pros.
That started to change when Josh Heupel was runner-up in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2000 after leading the Sooners to a national title in Stoops’ second season.
Heupel was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the sixth round in the 2001 NFL draft but tendonitis in his throwing shoulder hampered his passing and he failed to make that team. He was later signed by the Green Bay Packers but he was cut before the season started and that ended his career.
Heupel is now the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach for the Missouri Tigers.
OU’s Jason White replaced an injured Nate Hybl in 2001 but White tore the ACL in his knee later in that year, ending his season. White suffered another knee injury against Alabama in 2002. He wound up with reconstructive surgeries on both knees.
White won the Heisman Trophy in 2003, throwing 40 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. He quarterbacked the Sooners in the 2004 BCS National Championship game in 2004, which OU lost to LSU, 14-21.
White was given a medical hardship in 2004 and he was a finalist for the Heisman. He finished third behind teammate Adrian Peterson (USC quarterback Matt Leinhart won). OU lost the 2005 BCS title game to USC, 19-55.
White was not drafted due to his injury history and he was not invited to try out for any team. He was only the third Heisman winner not to be drafter (Pete Dawkins chose a military career and Charlie Ward went to the NBA).
But the Tennessee Titans signed White as an undrafted free agent but White quit due to his ailing knees. White is in private business in Oklahoma.
Sam Bradford – Minnesota Vikings
Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford has been the biggest star for Sooner quarterbacks in the pros. After winning the Heisman Trophy, Bradford was the first pick in the NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams. He signed a six-year, $78 million deal ($50 million guaranteed) a year before rookie contracts were lessened by a contract between the league and the players’ union.
Bradford was named rookie offensive player of the year as he broke Peyton Manning’s record for most complete passes for a rookie (326).
Injuries slowed Bradford and he was traded to Philadelphia in 2015 for Nick Foles. In March of 2016, Bradford signed a new 2-year contract ($36 million with $26 million guaranteed). The Eagles traded draft picks to get a quarterback and Bradford demanded a trade. Philly picked quarterback Carson Wentz with the second overall pick and Bradford was traded to Minnesota after Viking quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a season-ending ACL tear in practice.
Bradford started 15 games for Minnesota and set a single-season completion percentage record (71.6 percent), hitting 20 touchdowns with only five interceptions.
Viking coach Mike Zimmer has made Bradford the starter this season for Minnesota while the recovery of Bridgewater is still underway.
Landry Jones – Pittsburgh Steelers
Sooner quarterback Landry Jones as a redshirt freshman stepped in for Bradford in 2009 in a game against BYU. Jones started the rest of the year as Bradford had season-ending shoulder surgery.
Jones started three more seasons and ended with 16,646 yards passing – a school record.
Jones was drafted in the fourth round by the Pittsburgh Steelers behind All-Pro quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. As a third-teamer, Jones didn’t see any regular action in his first two pro seasons.
In 2015, Jones replaced Michael Vick who was subbing for an injured Roethlisberger and engineered a comeback win over the Arizona Cardinals. In 2016, started in a loss to the New England Patriots and managed a come-from-behind overtime win over Cleveland. His career passing rating average is 82.8 (86.3 last season).
This spring, Jones signed a two-year free-agent contract to return to Pittsburgh.
Blake Bell – San Francisco 49ers
Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell switched to tight end at OU and was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, where he will battle for a roster spot.
Trevor Knight – Arizona Cardinals
Former OU quarterback Trevor Knight, who transferred and started for Texas A&M last season, has signed with the Arizona Cardinals and is fighting for the slot as third team quarterback. He might switch to wide receiver.
Baker Mayfield, a finalist the last two seasons for the Heisman Trophy, decided to return to OU for his senior season even though he was projected to be drafted. If he has a successful senior campaign, he could be drafted anywhere from the first round on down.
Brandon Weeden – Houston Texans
Brandon Weeden was a baseball pitcher who was drafted in the second of the 2002 Major League Baseball Draft by the New York Yankees. He was their first pick in that draft.
In 2003, he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers and in 2005, he was picked in the Rule 5 Draft by the Kansas City Royals. In 2006, Weeden played for the Class-A High Desert Mavericks of the California League but injuries made him decide to quit baseball.
Weeden went to OSU in 2007 and was redshirted. He played in only one game in 2008.
In 2009, Weeden got into three games. He led OSU to an 11-point win over Colorado. In 2010, Weeden was named the starter. He threw six touchdown passes against Tulsa and the Cowboys went 11-1, and were ranked No. 3 in the final BCS ranking – narrowly missing a chance to play in the national championship game.
Weeden broke school records for total passing attempts, completions, yardage and touchdowns – records all formerly held by Coach Mike Gundy. Weeden hit 379 or 522 passing attempts for 4,328 yards. Weeden beat Stanford in the 2017 Fiesta Bowl.
Weeden was drafted by the woeful Cleveland Browns as the 22nd pick in the first round of the 2012 draft. He was named the starter at the beginning of the season but he threw four interceptions in a loss to the Eagles and had a passer rating of 5.1. He rebounded the next week by hitting 26 of 37 passes for 322 yards and no interceptions against with a passer rating of 114.9.
Weeden battled a thumb injury in 2013 and was replaced by Brian Hoyer, who was then named the starter for the rest of the season. In March of 2014, the Browns released Weeden.
The Dallas Cowboys signed Weeden to a two-year contract to back up starter Tony Romo in 2014. Romo got hurt and Weeden went 3-1 as a replacement starter.
Romo broke his collarbone in the second game of 2015 and Weeden was named the starter. The Cowboys traded for Matt Cassel. Weeden started and Dallas lost three games in a row. Cassel was named the starter and Weeden was waived in November.
In November of 2015, Weeden was claimed off waivers by the Houston Texans, a great defensive team with serious quarterback problems. Weeden played after starter T.J. Yates was injured. But Weeden was later replaced by Hoyer (now with Houston).
In 2016, Weeden signed a two-year contract with Houston and he was the third-string quarterback behind Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage. Osweiler was traded to Cleveland and this season, Weeden is projected to be the third quarterback behind Savage and first-round draft pick, Deshaun Watson of Clemson.
Zac Robinson became a starter at Oklahoma State in the second game of 2007 when he was a redshirt sophomore. That season, he rushed for 847 yards and passed for 2,824, setting a Cowboy season record of 3,671 total offensive yards.
The only other NCAA player to rush for at least 800 yards and pass for 2,800 yards was Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow of Florida.
Robinson had 562 rushing yards and 3,064 passing yards in the 2008 season and he led OSU to the Holiday Bowl.
Robinson’s senior season had some setbacks. OSU running back Kendall Hunter (later drafted by the Dallas Cowboys) battled injuries all year. Wide receiver Dez Bryant (a first round pick who is still with the Dallas Cowboys) was suspended for part of that season. Robinson suffered a shoulder injury against Texas Tech and later pulled his hamstring. He finished the year with only 2,084 yards passing.
In 2010, Robinson was drafted by the New England Patriots in the seventh round and signed a four-year contract. He was cut in September and then was signed to the practice squad of the Seattle Seahawks. Robinson was waived by Seattle in November and then claimed off waivers by the Detroit Lion. In September of 2011, he was waived by the Lions.
Robinson wound up on the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad in 2011 and after that season, he signed to the offseason roster. He played in four games in 2012 for the Bengals but an elbow injury put him in the “physically unable to perform” list before the start of the season in 2013 and he missed the entire season. He failed his physical in 2014 and that pretty much ended his career.
This year, senior quarterback Mason Rudolph has been projected as a possible first-round draft pick and a candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
Rudolph has a 22-6 record as a starter for the Cowboys. Eight of those games were comeback wins in which OSU trailed in the second half.
Rudolph is third in the nation in among active players in career passing yards and career passing efficiency. He holds 11 school records and will probably set new records in pass attempts, pass completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns in 2017.
As a freshman, Gundy wanted to redshirt Rudolph but injuries forced him into duty. He made Bedlam history by engineering the second largest fourth-quarter come-from-behind win in school history in a 38-35 overtime win over Oklahoma in Norman.
Rudolph was projected to be drafted by the NFL but chose to return for his senior season.
Paul Smith – Tulsa
Former Tulsa quarterback Paul Smith was the Conference USA Player of the Year in 2007 and won the Wuerffel Trophy. A three-year starter, he led the Golden Hurricane to three straight bowl games.
Smith signed as a free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2008. He was waived but later placed on the practice squad, where he got cut.
In 2011, he signed a two-year contract with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL but he was released during training camp and retired.
G.J. Kinne – Tulsa
Former TU quarterback G.J. Kinne started his college career at the University of Texas. He had little chance of starting and transferred to TU in 2008. He started for TU in 2009 and ended his career with 9,472 yards passing.
Kinne signed an undrafted free agent contract with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012. He was later waived. He played for the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League in 2012 and later with the San Antonio Talons of the Arena Football League.
Kinne was signed and released by the Eagles in February of 2013 and then re-signed to the practice squad. He was converted to a wide receiver in 2015 and then waived against.
In 2015, the New York Giants signed Kinne to their practice squad and he was waived. Kinne joined the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL and later the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2016.
Kinne officially retired in May of this year.
Dane Evans – Tulsa
Dane Evans, the TU quarterback last season, was not drafted. He signed a free-agent contract with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Evans completed 56-percent of his passes for 8,332 career yards and 52 TDs at Tulsa and ranks fourth on the school’s all-time lists for passing yards and TD passes.