Sam Bradford, quarterback for the NFL’s St. Louis Rams, joined U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in supporting healthy initiatives focused on American Indian youth. Bradford and Vilsack met April 27 at the USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C., where they urged Native American youth to spend the summer pursuing healthy outdoor activities.
Bradford, an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, joined more than thirty Native American students at USDA’s People’s Garden in planting an Indian-themed garden, called The Roots of American Agriculture.
“My mom wouldn’t let me sit in the house,” said the Heisman Trophy winner at the ceremony. “She would limit my TV to an hour a day. After that hour was up, I was out the door. What I was doing, it was up to me, whether it was playing football, playing basketball … There was a creek by my house that I used to go out to.”
Vilsack used the event as an opportunity to highlight the Obama administration’s youth-focused health initiatives. “Through programs like ‘Fuel up to Play 60’ and Let’s Move!, the Obama administration is helping get kids active in order to help them have a healthy future,” Vilsack said in a statement. “Our partners at the NFL and across the country are key to engaging kids in an exciting way that teaches them that physical activity can be fun, while also important to their health.”
Bradford and Vilsack noted that a recent study of four year-old children found that obesity is more than twice as common among American Indian/Alaska Native children than among white or Asian children. In 2002, nearly 15 percent of those receiving care from the United States Indian Health Service (IHS) were estimated to have diabetes, according to government estimated.
According to USDA officials, the agency’s People’s Garden Initiative promotes the establishment of school and community gardens to grow healthy food, people and communities across the country.
Youth participating in the Bradford event included students representing Eastern and Western tribes, Southeast Alaska, and a class from a Native elementary school in Tuba City, Arizona.
The garden Bradford helped plant included heirloom Native American crops and planting techniques and was aimed at celebrating Indian contributions to farming.
Bradford and Vilsack were joined at USDA by Robin Schepper, executive director of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Campaign; Keith Moore, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Education Director, and Janie Hipp, Senior Advisor to Secretary Vilsack with the USDA Office of Tribal Relations.
On April 22, 2010, Bradford was selected by the St. Louis Rams as the first overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. He grew up in Oklahoma and spent his college career with the Oklahoma Sooners. In 2008, Bradford became the second sophomore to win a Heisman Trophy. In his first season in the NFL, Bradford won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award after setting the record for most completions by a rookie in NFL history.