Texas at its best-Bradshaw
Football Bradshaw Style
By: Kevin Kelly
Football is a religion in Texas, it is said that there are two high school sports here, football and spring football. While that is a slight exaggeration, a conversation with Bradshaw regarding his days as a gridiron star in high school, college and the pros, shows the extent of Texans' passion for the game and for life.
While growing up in the small community of Sweetwater, Texas, Bradshaw played high school football in front of huge crowds. "The town had probably 10,000 people, but for home games there would be as many as 8,000 to 9,000 people in the stands. Stores would shut down when we played on the road, because everyone would go and watch the football team play," Bradshaw recalls.
Honored as a First Team All-State and a member of the All-Texas Super Team his senior year, Bradshaw received hundreds of offers to play college football from across Texas and all over the country. The offensive lineman opted to stay close to home and play for the relatively unknown Abilene Christian University. The reason this blue chipper chose to play in his own backyard? Tradition.
"My dad want there and so did my mom. My sister played tennis there. When I grew up, my dad used to take me to all the home football games. I would walk past the Wall of Fame and see names Like (former NFL running back) Wilber Montgomery and Ova Johansson, who still holds the record for the longest field goal ever in any classification or level at 69 yards. My goal was always to play at Abilene Christian and have my picture up there with Wilbur Montgomery," says Bradshaw.
He admits going to a larger school like the University of Texas or Texas A&M might have been better career wise, he has never regretted choosing the Division II school. After some of the wild stunts that the rambunctious Sweetwater native pulled at the conservative school, you have to wonder if they regretted Bradshaws choice. " My coach used to call my style "reckless abandon" and I would love to put myself in that zone where you were not afraid to get hurt or hurt somebody. The problem was that when I got off the field, I lived the same way!
An incident his sophomore year seemed to set the tone for the rest of his college career. Bradshaw remembers, "When I was a freshman, we all shaved our heads and we had a pretty good year. The next year's freshmen, I thought, didn't have the right attitude so we shaved all there heads. The school thought that was hazing. Yeah they weren't to happy about it!"
When I mentioned field goal kickers and other non-contact positions in football, Bradshaw spoke with great disdain. "I hate field goal kickers! I can't stand them, kickers and punters! We were kicking in spring practice one year and we had a very good kicker, but this one day he was off and it started to bother me. It bothered me because we had to stay out there so late and also because it didn't seem to bother him that he was missing them. So, I followed him back to the dorm when practice was over and stuck him, upside down, in a 55-gallon drum and rolled him down 3 flights of stairs. He wasn't eligible the following year, but the nickname stuck and "Trash Can" Dennis Brown made All-American the next year!
Bradshaw lost his scholarship to play at Abilene Christian because of an extracurricular activity. He remembers that " The school got mad at me because I wrestled a bear one night in a bar, they had a rule that forbade students from going into any building that served alcohol. The way I looked at it, was it wasn't a place that served alcohol it was a place where you could wrestle a Bear! But they didn't agree with me on that one."
Despite his off the field wildness, Bradshaw was a consummate leader on and off the field, He felt that "the buck stopped with me" and led by example. From never losing a round of "Bull-in-the-Ring," the practice drill/(torture) test that football coaches are so fond of, to playing with a broken leg, Bradshaw always maintained control.
Bradshaw switched to left tackle his senior year expressly to battle John Randle, now an All-Pro for the Minnesota Vikings(and also a huge Stone Cold Steve Austin fan). Randle was a dominating defensive end for Texas A&I and an all-American who set every sack record known at the time. During the long-awaited meeting between these two All-Americans, Bradshaw broke his leg in the second quarter of the Lone Star Conference Championship game. His day, however, was not over "It was the first time ever that my Dad came out of the stands and asked me what I was gonna do. I said, 'Well I guess we'll find out how tough I am' and I went back in. I sat out two plays while they bandaged it up and I played two and a half quarters with the broken leg. I gave up one sack that day, and it was the only one I gave up in College."
His leg was still broken the following week and he played in that game, his final as a senior, as well. For Bradshaw, there is no other way. An opportunity in the NFL was complicated by an error in the scouting report. Nevertheless, he signed with the LA Raiders and eventually went on to play in the World League of American Football (WLAF) with the San Antonio Riders before hanging up his helmet and picking up the bull rope in professional wrestling.