Bradford Uses Tragedy to Overcome Obstacles

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Carl Bradford
Carl Bradford: “People can’t see the lion roaring inside me”

The Green Bay Packers used this year’s fourth round pick on Arizona State linebacker Carl Bradford.  There were probably not many followers of the Packers who were more excited than I was and I’ll come clean right here and now: I’m an ASU alum and a season ticket holder.  It was homerism at its finest when the pick was announced and I expressed my excitement all the way down the road I was driving on at the time.

In a story written shortly after Bradford was drafted by Ty Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the opening paragraph talked about how the Packers seemingly chose to ignore conventional wisdom when they made the pick.

At 6’1″ and with 30″ arms, Bradford’s measurables didn’t necessarily scream “3-4 outside linebacker”.  I always chuckle a bit when I hear scouts and media talking about a player’s arm length.  I see how it can be helpful, but so many football players have had very successful careers with “short arms” before.

Still, Bradford isn’t the type of player you envision when you think of a good pass-rushing linebacker.  By contrast, the Packers brought in undrafted rookie linebacker and Adrian Hubbard out of Alabama.  Hubbard stands at 6’6″ and 245 pounds.  Bradford was drafted, in the fourth round.  Hubbard wasn’t, largely because of a potential heart condition.

In football and the NFL, measurables simply don’t tell the whole story.  In Bradford’s case, they barely tell the story.  By now, many have heard how Bradford lost his father, Roy Bradford, early last year to a heart attack.  At home in Louisiana, Roy collapsed suddenly into his son’s arms and was pronounced dead when paramedics arrived.

The loss of any family member, under any circumstances, is a hard pill to swallow.  In Bradford’s case, it was no different.  ASU head football coach Todd Graham talked in Dunne’s piece about how Bradford didn’t talk much about the loss of his dad and that it was clearly affecting him.  The grieving process is different for everyone.  Bradford went through the tough part and had his ups and downs.

Then came last season where he used all of that emotion, both good and bad, to finish out his collegiate career with a second-straight solid season for the Sun Devils.  Eight and a half sacks along with an key interception returned for a touchdown late in the season against UCLA.  Below are highlights from that game with Bradford as a feature.  Fast forward to 2:16 to see that particular play.

A linebacker who has shown an ability to get to the quarterback and who plays with a good amount of emotion and fire.  Sign me up!  Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said the team’s defense will be better in 2014 and that he wants more play makers on that side of the ball.  Bradford tallied 20 sacks over his last two seasons so he knows what a quarterback looks like and how to bring him down.  Green Bay has at least chosen a guy with the right resume for that they want to accomplish this year.

Draft picks are anything but a sure thing.  Many have been drafted early only to fade out before their careers even begin.  Others are drafted late and have Hall of Fame careers.  Bradford’s story in the NFL is an unknown at this point, but his story says he’s worth watching and there is likely more to come.

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Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.com

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  • packett

    Jason, thanks for intro to Bradford for us guys in remote parts of the world that aren’t able to follow college ball. Welcome to the team Mr. Bradford. Hope we well know you early mid-season.

  • Razer

    I appreciate that losing a parent is difficult but I am not sure how it translates to a better football player. Still it makes a good story coming into training camp. Seems a little small to be effective as an edge rusher in the NFL, especially when the big tackles get a hand on him. I would be more excited if he were an ILB but I will take your ASU alum confidence that he will make the Packers better.

    • Dobber

      “I appreciate that losing a parent is difficult but I am not sure how it translates to a better football player”

      Maybe a more focused or dedicated football player. As someone who teaches college kids for a living, I can tell you that many of them are very good at what they do–be it academics, athletics, service, etc.–but they may lack the focus to be excellent at it. It’s sad that this tragedy happened to this young man, but if it helps him to direct his energy and focus his life, I can absolutely see how that would be an asset in his career and what he could do for an NFL team.

  • Big T

    Ok Jason, sounds good, I will take your word on it. Still am secretly keeping my fingers crossed however.

  • http://allgbp.com/category/authors/jason-perone/ Jason Perone

    Take some of my excitement with a grain of salt, I went to ASU so it’s similar to when Craig Newsome was drafted in ’95.

    Bradford won’t be better because of any added piss and vinegar from dealing with the loss of his Dad, but knowing that he was one of ASU’s top veteran leaders (he would have had the C on his jersey if they did that in college), he seems to bring a lot to the table.

  • Mojo

    I watched the highlights of Bradford from the UCLA game provided here. Nice recognition by Bradford to stay in the passing lane on his INT. He had a couple other decent plays later.

    But all-in-all the tackles owned him when UCLA wasn’t in obvious passing situations. He had a hard time getting off the blocks. So-so speed. Plus he missed some tackles in space.

    I didn’t see anything special here. Seems like JAG to me.

    • Archie

      Ditto.

  • Bama Packer Fan

    From wrestling: Leverage = Power. Our coaches call it pad level. 6’1 will get under 6’6 nearly every time. Some times it can be beneficial. Mike Daniels applies the principle of leverage to stand up, push back, and disengage from blockers. I know that in certain positions length and reach are assets. But there are other times that the natural leverage of being lower are assets too. I have never been so embarrassed on the field as when a short powerful running back got into my chest with his helmet and put me on my backside. I learned the painful value of leverage that day.

    • JR

      Good points. At 6’4″, I’ve also learned how leverage can be applied for good or ill. I’ve had some squat yet stout & powerful players take me out too. There’ve been a lot of football players who may not have the measurables, but their power and technique make up for it. I’m excited to see what Carl Bradford brings to the Packers! Who knows? Maybe this guy moves to MLB or ILB…

  • Tarynfor12

    Nearly every player makes a couple of plays in their careers,but if this ‘highlight’ reel is suppose to endorse Bradford as an OLB in the NFL..forget it.

    Also,I get the back story and feel for this kid with what happened to his dad and all,but when it’s told over and over as the opening for every article on him,it begins to read as a ‘root and give him the job via sympathy’.We all have tragedies in our lives and we don’t,for the very most part,get jobs based on them.

    If the kid has the ability to make it in the NFL fine,but the constant regurgitation of a back story as the bravado for cheering him is over done.

    In the every day life,people move on from tragedy and prefer ‘not’ to bring it up every 5 mins,why is it necessary to do so with sports figures with every intro on a show or article being written..how many of us carry and present the obituary of a loved one or a resume of our bad events at job interviews or as a conversation starter?

    I have sympathy for all who lose someone and all who suffer from plight in life but have more regard for those who move on from it and leave it in the back when of life.

  • WKUPackFan

    Wow, between this and the Colt Lyerla comments there are some unsympathetic “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” type of people around here. News flash: Real life doesn’t always work that way. Some people are effected for years by the loss of loved one or other life events. That doesn’t mean those people are weaker than you are, it means they’re mentally or emotionally “wired differently” (for lack of a better term) than you are, or their life experiences are different than yours. It doesn’t make them a worse person than you either.

    If all your relationships are perfectly happy and your financially secure I’m glad for you. However, I’ll bet some compassion for your fellow man will make your life even more fulfilled.

    • Tarynfor12

      ” I’ll bet some compassion for your fellow man will make your life even more fulfilled.”

      I’m sure the vast majority,especially those who follow sports and in particular the NFL have ‘compassion’ for Carl Bradford and alike who have suffered no matter the direction in which it came.But,lets not confuse compassion with exploitation of a suffering as real compassion.

      “Some people are effected for years by the loss of loved one or other life events. That doesn’t mean those people are weaker than you are, it means they’re mentally or emotionally “wired differently” (for lack of a better term) than you are, or their life experiences are different than yours. It doesn’t make them a worse person than you either.”

      Have no idea why this was stated,no one belittled any one else for their lack of rise from a suffering or that they are weaker for it or because if they couldn’t the amount of compassion is less.

      Real compassion must have a boundary,media compassion has no bounds..which would you prefer.as reality?

      • http://allgbp.com/category/authors/jason-perone/ Jason Perone

        What we try to do here is share information about the Green Bay Packers. Some of it is news, transactions and reaction to what is actually happening on the field and with the team. Other times, it’s about the players themselves and to gain more insight into them as people. They are, after all, human beings as well as athletes.

        When Bradford was drafted, he was interviewed by several media outlets and was asked about his Dad. He also happens to be a very spiritual man. He chose to answer those questions and freely expressed his faith as well as his experience since losing his father. From what he says, the experience is something that Bradford attributes to helping him get to where he is today: a 4th round draft pick of the Packers.

        Being drafted into the NFL is an exciting time and experience for most of these guys and the story behind how they got there is always worth telling and hearing, in my humble opinion. When you’re talking about someone’s story about how they achieved the type of success that less than 1% of the population does, it’s at least worth a mention. . or 3. Throw in that it happens to be a member of the Packers and that’s why I chose to write this knowing that the story has already been told.

        • Packett

          You said it quite nicely, and that is how I read your article. I appreciate hearing about a new guy, and your mention of a person’s tragedy doesn’t imply we should cheer extra, or hope he gets on the squad based on sympathy. Not all articles need be Xs and Os. Your article was fair and appropriate if its a packer’s player.

  • Tmoneey

    Rooting for this guy, like how he plays on the field and from his interviews you can tell he loves to play football.

  • Tmoneey

    That Pick Six in the highlight video was pretty sweet!

  • WKUPackFan

    Taryn: My post was directed mainly, but not solely, as a reply to your comment. Your entire post belittled Bradford by claiming that his reaction to his father’s death was not genuine. Then you broadened the scope of your ridicule to all people who have trajedies but just can’t “get over” them.

    Also, real compassion has no boundaries.

    • Tarynfor12

      I was not belittling Bradfords’ loss nor was that the intent…Much of his perceived future success is being heralded as because of the loss of his father and the fire it is instilling in him…if he fails will it be due to his waning feeling of the tragic event…absolutely not.

      The only belittling I did of Bradford was in my very first sentence…

      ” Nearly every player makes a couple of plays in their careers,but if this ‘highlight’ reel is suppose to endorse Bradford as an OLB in the NFL..forget it.”

      • http://allgbp.com/category/authors/jason-perone/ Jason Perone

        Taryn, I don’t want to beat a dead horse and we may already be on the same page, but I do want to clarify that I wasn’t trying to imply that Bradford’s loss would make him a better player or warrants any additional empathy/support. It was merely telling the story.

        As far as the player, certainly fair assessment from the tape. It doesn’t jump off the page at you, agreed. But. . having seen a bigger sample size of his play, I think he has a good chance to exceed expectations of a 4th rounder.

        • Tarynfor12

          Jason,I know you were merely writing an article and telling his story was to be part of it.My point was that this story has been written in every article since he was drafted and which I’m sure you have read many of.

          Will the need to repeat it in every new one about his progress be lined with yet another recap,for if it is,then one has to assume the cheering for him is based solely on his misfortune and not based on his actual ability.

          The same goes for Michael Sam,though his story pales in comparison with Bradfords ,but was it not perceived pre-draft that a team may now simply take him because of it and not his talent and is it not already being talked and questioned as to what will be thought if he is cut.

          The story of any players hardship is worth telling and noted,but the incessant and unneeded addition of it in every future article,IMO,does more a disservice to the compassion that has already been shown.

          I do apologize for taking my frustration out with your article on Bradford and always read you and will continue to do so.Look forward to your next one :)

          • http://allgbp.com/category/authors/jason-perone/ Jason Perone

            All good. I enjoy reading the discussions below and there will be more to come! Thanks for reading!

  • Rossoneri83

    I PERSONALLY LOVE GUYS LIKE BRADFORD who have that fire in their heart. You can’t teach that to a player. We’ve all heard players who are told they aren’t big enough, fast enough, etc. If you have the passion, that will overcome physical shortcomings. I’m sure the Packers look for guys like Bradford, because it may remind them of Mike Daniels. Daniels fell to the 4th rd too because everyone said he wasn’t tall enough (6’0″) or big enough (289 lbs. at that time).

    For example, everyone said Elvis Dumervil was not big enough at 5’11” 258 lbs., so in the 2006 draft he fell to the 4th round. We know how he turned out to be!

  • http://allgbp.com Thegreatreynoldo

    Loved this draft pick when projected to ILB, but I agree w Mojo and Tarynfort, he will have problems at OLB other than as a situational rusher & running stunts. Lacks lean, and speed to rush outside. Routinely got engulfed by tackles. He looked good at ILB. He showed good awareness, and he appeared to be able to cover, with good hip fluidity. Overall, I really like this pick if he can convert to ILB. Should be good on ST while he learns ILB.

    • Stroh

      I’m with you on this. Bradford was a very good and productive college OLB/DE but I don’t think he’ll be nearly as good in the NFL on the outside. I love his intensity and desire but don’t feel that will be enough to overcome his deficiencies. I mention almost immediately after he was drafted if a move inside might be in store for him. I can see him developing into Hawks replacement in a year or two. Would rather have a faster playmaker at weak ILB than Bradford but he woukd be a nice option to replace Hawk eventually IMO.

      As an OLB I don’t see it happening for him tho and I’ve watched my share of him living in the Scottsdale/Phx area for the past 10 yrs.

    • Bama Packer Fan

      do you mean length? Where did you copy and paste “Your” assessment from Mr. Great?

  • CornHolio

    Pretty obvious Bradford is not a stand out and will not start, play, or contribute much on the outside. Never the less he could contribute on the inside and with Special Teams.

  • http://allgbp.com Thegreatreynoldo

    No, I meant “lean” as in lacks good body lean when rushing the passer. Watching the video I thought Bradford was going to turn the corner on the OT on some of his outside rushes, but he never got home. As it happens, Clay Matthews uses excellent body lean to help get around offensive tackles. On some of his rushes, CM seems to be almost parallel to the ground.

    That being said, I have a higher opinion of Bradford than Mojo does, and I don’t think Bradford is JAG. He looks like a football player to me, with good speed, athleticism, awareness and intensity. I read NFL.com and CBSsports.com regarding all of GB’s draft choices, including Bradford.

  • chubacabra

    Was swallowed up as an end. OK at LB.
    Better question- Who was #5? Seemed like HE was the one in on every play! Good luck to Mr. Bradford.