Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2007

Bradford earns ultimate respect

Gaithersburg grad earns Football Championship Series (Division I-AA) All-American first-team honors at Towson

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Photo courtesy of Towson University athletics
Brian Bradford takes down Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco during a game in September this year. It was a familiar feeling for Bradford, who made a team-high 149 tackles for Towson.
After earning second-team all-conference honors as a junior, and a preseason first-team all-conference selection this past August, Towson University linebacker Brian Bradford anticipated some individual recognition in this, his senior football season.

He didn’t expect this.

Last week, both the American Football Coaches Association and the Associated Press named Bradford, a 2003 graduate of Gaithersburg High School, to their Football Championship Series (formerly Division I-AA) All-American first teams.

‘‘It’s definitely amazing; it’s one of those goals you kind of set out there in the distance and think, if you work hard enough, you might be able to get there,” Bradford said. ‘‘I was absolutely surprised. I thought at best I’d get second team.”

Already recognized as a force in the Colonial Athletic Association (formerly Atlantic-10), Bradford opened eyes nationally with his play as a senior. He led the CAA with 149 tackles, and ranked second nationally with a per-game average of 13.55 stops.

Bradford was named the first-ever CAA Defensive Player of the Week with 17 tackles in Towson’s season-opener. He went on to record at least nine stops in every game this season, including a career-high 19 in his final home game. He also led the CAA with four forced fumbles and was third in the conference with 13 tackles for lost yardage.

Bradford finished with 328 career tackles, third-best in Towson history.

‘‘This is a tremendous honor for Brian, and it’s well-deserved,” Towson coach Gordy Combs said in a press release. ‘‘He is one of the greatest football players I’ve ever coached. I’ve coached a lot of great linebackers here over 35 years, and he’s the best one. He has been the heart and soul of our defense and he is a born leader.”

At Gaithersburg, Bradford played sparingly as a sophomore on the 2000 state-championship team, but didn’t earn a starting job until two years later, as a senior. He was named to the 2002 All-Gazette first team, though, after leading the team with 96 tackles.

Overlooked by Division I-A programs because of his lack of size, Bradford is now a 6-foot-3, 240-pound All-American, and will take a stab at a professional career.

‘‘The agents are kind of coming around, and I’m talking with them, but I haven’t decided on anything agent-wise yet,” Bradford said. ‘‘All I can do now is train to be in the best shape I can.”

Bradford is hoping to attend the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, an invitation-only workout for draft hopefuls in front of all 32 NFL teams. If he doesn’t receive an invitation to the combine, Bradford still expects to work out for teams individually.

He doesn’t know how the workout season will go for him — he hasn’t even had his 40-yard dash timed recently. But after going from underrated college prospect to FCS first-team All-American, Bradford is prepared to convert non-believers with his on-field performance all over again.

‘‘ I always believe on the field is where it counts,” Bradford said. ‘‘I’ve seen people get into college just on the numbers they put up [in workouts], but I don’t know, it’s one of those things. I really believe I’m faster on the field.”