Always smiling, Brandon Bradley believes laughter is contagious. His happy outlook and good-natured attitude towards others is a positive influence on all who know him. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
Brandon Bradley likes honesty.
When an email from his mom came informing him BYU was interested in his skills as a football player, he had to be honest with himself.
“In the beginning I thought, ‘No, no, I don’t want to go to BYU’,” Bradley, a 6-foot-3, 193-pound senior, said of the unexpected correspondence. “But my mom really wanted me to go and she felt it was the best place for me to be. It was an inner battle.”
As a senior at Lincoln High School in Tallahassee, Fla., Bradley tallied 86 tackles, two interceptions, 12 pass break-ups and three forced fumbles. He also played receiver.
His success in a region of the country that is often heralded for first-rate football caught the attention of Louisville, a program growing in national prominence at the time. Bradley signed with the Cardinals and his college career seemed full of promise.
But the Big East Conference would have to wait. The people of Sao Paulo, Brazil, would be Bradley’s next focus as he embarked on a two-year mission. It was an experience that, he said, would change him and his perspective, and help him more fully understand the truth and honesty he desired.
“I grew up a lot,” Bradley said. “The things that I was able to learn on my mission are applicable to life outside the mission as well.”
As a missionary in Brazil, Bradley was exposed to a culture that fostered in him a desire to help those in other countries who find themselves in different, and often less-desirable living situations.
“It’s different, it’s a lot different,” said Bradley, a Global Studies major. “It opened my eyes to a lot of different things, being able to see how we live here in the United States, and how people live there (Brazil), some with mud floors and huts.”
However, as Bradley’s service exploration as a full-time missionary neared a conclusion, he was forced to find a different kind of truth.
BYU or Louisville? Big East or Mountain West? Warm weather or frigid winters?
“After I got that email from my mom, my doubts were pretty strong,” Bradley recalled. “She finally told me to pray about it. I hesitated to do so because I figured if I prayed about it, I would probably get the answer I needed to go to BYU.”
After a week or two of an inner struggle, Bradley again heard from his mother. This time, news that BYU had offered him a scholarship and needed to know of his decision within a week gave him a little more motivation to listen to his mother’s advice.
“I finally prayed about it for a couple of days and I got the answer that I should go to BYU,” Bradley said. “I accepted the offer and now I’m here.”
It’s a decision neither he, nor the BYU coaching staff, has regretted.
As a sophomore in 2008, Bradley saw sufficient time at cornerback, starting three games and totaling 40 tackles, including 33 solo takedowns. He also recorded three pass breakups and returned a fumble for a 38-yard touchdown against Utah State.
Bradley started all 13 games in 2009 as a junior, totaling 64 tackles, 48 of which were solo, four pass break-ups and two forced fumbles. In the final regular season game against rival Utah, a game that was decided in overtime, Bradley recorded a career-high 11 tackles. The Cougars finished at 11-2, beating Oregon State 44-20 for their third Las Vegas Bowl championship in four years.
But his chance to don Cougar blue didn’t come without difficulties and a sufficient opportunity to apply another lesson learned as a missionary.
“A mission is not an easy thing, by any means,” Bradley said. “There are a lot of opportunities to ask yourself, ‘Why am I doing this? Do I want to continue?’ I feel like having a purpose and knowing why you’re doing it helps you have the strength and the ability to keep pushing forward. It gives you the strength to keep pushing through, no matter what may be in front of you.”
With high expectations (both self-imposed and from outside sources) Bradley returned from Brazil and made the transition to BYU - and the cold winters. Football brought comfort and the ability to adjust, for a short time.
Soon after getting back into action, Bradley suffered a torn lateral collateral ligament (LCL).
“Being away from sports and being inactive for a period for two years is difficult and then suffering an injury that kept me out for another year did a number on my body,” Bradley said. “Not being able to do something I cherished was devastating. Not having my family around because they were back in Florida made it harder.”
With recovery taking longer than expected, Bradley missed his entire freshman season and was forced to redshirt.
“That (perseverance) is something that I learned on the mission that I have been able to apply since I have returned,” Bradley said. “I had an immediate opportunity once I got back to carry that perseverance with me after I blew out my knee.”
Despite not having the immediate support of his mother and those who cared for him at home in Florida, Bradley worked hard to recover and made his way back on to the field. Bradley was relieved to return to action, but the struggles continued as he worked to return to the level of play he was used to.
“I feel like once they gave me the go ahead I was excited in my mind, but when I tried to do it, it wasn’t as fast, it wasn’t as smooth and it wasn’t as quick,” Bradley said of joining his teammates again. “Even though they told me I was ready I had doubts, thinking maybe I wasn’t. That slowed me down.”
Bradley’s quickness soon returned and, to add to his comfort and confidence, he gained a new support system – a family of his own.
“Transitioning to BYU and having the injury at the same time made things a little awkward,” Bradley said. “I feel like I was treated really well when I first came and meeting my wife really helped me get comfortable.”
Now with a 22-month-old daughter, Bradley and wife Alexis, a BYU alumna, enjoy a busy life full of school, work and football. Bradley said Provo feels more like home, but that nothing can replace Tallahassee.
“It’s always good to go home,” Bradley said. “There’s nothing like going home and seeing my mom and other family and friends.”
While Bradley is over 2,000 miles away from his family and the home of the Florida State Seminoles, of which he admittedly was never a big fan, he still feels the support of those with whom he built relationships growing up.
“I still get a lot of support from home in Tallahassee,” Bradley said. “It seems like people keep up with me and are aware of what I am doing. It’s funny because my mom hears something going on with football before I have the chance to tell her, so I have to be quick getting information to her.”
Upon returning home from Brazil and discussing his decision to attend BYU with his mother, it was Bradley who was lacking information about the recruiting process.
“I didn’t know how it all worked out until I got home,” Bradley said. “It turns out that a girl from my ward back home had come out here to start school and she actually wrote a letter about me to Coach Mendenhall.”
Bradley said although he never thought of attending BYU in high school, he did get questions from friends, family and coaches about his thoughts on his church’s school.
His excitement to return home was increased when the Cougars had a chance to travel to Tallahassee last September. Despite a disappointing loss to Florida State, Bradley was able to play in front of a hometown crowd for the first time since high school. He recorded two tackles in the loss.
Bradley will receive his degree in global studies in December and looks to expand on the experiences he had in Brazil.
“I want to travel when I graduate,” said Bradley. “I like other cultures and getting to know people in different countries. I just like working with people so I think it would be fun to help underdeveloped countries or something along those lines.”
Bradley has been praised for his athletic ability for his entire life, but it is that desire to reach out to others that has endeared him to his teammates. As part of a talented secondary throughout his career at BYU, Bradley’s confidence and comfort have grown.
“He definitely motivates me,” said teammate Brian Logan. “When I’m down he’s right there to put a smile on my face and keep me going.”
In 2009, the two combined for 108 tackles, 79 of which were solo, and 18 pass breakups. Logan, who received Honorable Mention All-America accolades in 2009, joined the Cougars after playing two seasons at Foothill College in California and, like Bradley, found himself working to adjust to a new atmosphere.
“We definitely have a connection, being the two returning corners,” Logan said. “I think we have a camaraderie and share a responsibility to be leaders.”
While the two look to be examples for their teammates, especially incoming freshmen, they look to each other for guidance and support.
“Even though we play different sides and have different assignments, we are constantly teaching each other and trying to make each other better,” Logan said. “We will talk after a series or during film sessions and discuss what we did and what we can do differently and how we can do it better.”
A mature and very tight-knit secondary is the perfect atmosphere for such peer evaluation and support. However, It also provides grounds for the lighter side of football.
“We refer to him as a big kid,” said Bradley of Logan. “He is always smiling, always laughing and he always has candy.”
Logan returned the compliment when asked to describe Bradley in one word.
“Funny. He’s constantly joking,” Logan said of Bradley’s easy-going disposition. “People can get so caught up in the seriousness of football and having guys like him around really loosens you up, so it’s good to have a player like him.”
But it’s not all fun and games for Bradley and the Cougars. Bradley cites character and hard work for the team’s, and his personal, success – a lesson the he began to truly develop early in his BYU career.
As Bradley watched from the sidelines with a torn LCL in 2006, and during his first season as a reserve in 2007, he took notice of one particularly impressive teammate – former defensive back Quinn Gooch.
“He (Gooch) caught my attention,” Bradley said. “To me, he stood for hard work. I feel like he always gave his all.”
It was because of Gooch that Bradley more fully realized his admiration for honesty.
“He was someone that I considered to be real,” Bradley commented. “Because I feel like he was a person that was always honest, no matter what the situation may be, I looked up to him.”
Gooch, a defensive back for the Cougars from 2003-2007, started in more than 30 games and played vital part in two bowl wins for BYU.
Not only did Gooch and Bradley both bring energy to the defensive side of the ball for BYU, both experienced adversity early in their careers. In 2003, Gooch suffered a knee injury prior to fall camp that, like Bradley, forced him to redshirt his freshman year.
“He also had injuries, actually more injuries than I had, that he had to battle through and overcame to still play at a very high level,” Bradley said of Gooch. “Even through all that, his love for the game stayed and never wavered.”
Like Bradley, Gooch fully recovered and returned to be a leader for the Cougars, contributing to a defensive unit that gave up only 14.7 points per game and ranked 10th nationally.
“He might not have been the best athlete but he was a great football player,” Bradley said. “He knew football.”
Gooch’s perseverance and leadership taught Bradley that he could have the same impact on his predecessors in his new role as a veteran.
“I never thought the day would come,” Bradley said of his road to senior leadership. “I am already dreading the end of the season.”
Bradley cites freshman quarterback Jake Heaps and junior college transfer DeQuan Everett as teammates with whom he has been able to establish a connection.
“I feel like I have been able to establish a relationship with them that will hopefully help them and help the program,” Bradley said of the two first-year Cougars. “They are good players and will help the team a lot.”
However, despite being one of few returning senior starters for the Cougars, Bradley said that being a leader is more than seniority.
“I don’t necessarily think that being a veteran makes you smarter or a better player,” Bradley said. “I just feel like I am in a role to do what I can to help them learn what they need to be successful.”
Along with experience, Bradley uses his attitude to affect those around him.
“I’m a happy guy. I’m always smiling,” Bradley said. “I’m always laughing and I think laughter is contagious. I’ve learned that throughout my life from people I’ve been around. I feel like it’s a lot easier to trust someone or to listen to someone when they’re always happy.”
Brandon Bradley likes honesty.
So when he’s been faced with torn LCL’s, foreign countries, new languages and cold winters, he has used lessons he learned from football and serving others to find the truth, and for him, that has meant success.
Bradley One of Seven Fathers On Team
As if football and school don’t provide enough responsibility for the Cougar football team, 32 Cougars have added to their plates by starting their own families, with seven of those players recently becoming fathers.
Brandon BradleySr.CornerbackAmiah (daughter)
Alani FuaFr.LinebackerAlani Jr. (son)
Spencer HafokaJr.Wide ReceiverHina (daughter)
Shane HunterSr.LinebackerHalle (daughter)
Aveni Leung-WaiJr.LinebackerZiah (son)
Jason SperedonSr.Offensive LineMahala (daughter)
Travis UaleJr.Defensive BackJack (son)
*Offensive lineman Matt Reynolds and defensive end Vic So’oto and their wives are also expecting.
HOW DO YOU BALANCE BEING A STUDENT, FOOTBALL PLAYER, HUSBAND AND FATHER?
Senior cornerback Brandon Bradley said balancing life effectively is about the small stuff.
“I’ve learned I have to make the best of all the opportunities I have to be at home with my wife and daughter,” Bradley said. “Even if I am tired or have to do things, it is important to spend some time with her, even if it is a small amount.”
Offensive lineman Jason Speredon and his wife Shalee added daughter Mahala to their family 18 months ago. Responding to the same question, Speredon admitted receiving help with his responsibilities. “I really feel like it’s a spiritual gift,” Speredon said. “It’s a difficult thing to do and I feel like I receive a lot of help.”
“I try to keep my football stuff on the field and my school stuff at school,” said freshman defensive back Alani Fua. “If I do that I’m able to focus on just being a dad when I get home.”
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR CHILD’S NAME?
Junior wide receiver Spencer Hafoka and his wife Crystal became parents seven months ago when their daughter Hina arrived. Hafoka credited his wife’s family with the name Hina.
“It’s a combination of my wife’s grandpa and great-grandma’s names,” Hafoka said. “It’s a Tahitian name.”
Bradley and his wife Alexis also decided to be creative when they were deciding on a name for their daughter. “We both liked the name Miah, but we both wanted to add something to it to make it a little different,” Bradley said. “We decided on Amiah and when we looked it up we found the meaning of it, which is ‘beloved’ or ‘loved’.”
WHAT IS YOUR CHILD GOING TO BE WHEN HE/SHE GROWS UP?
Parents rarely hold back when aspiring for their children, hoping to raise future NFL running backs and famous dancers. In most instances, BYU football fathers are no different.
According to Hafoka, his daughter Hina’s future is pretty sure. “She will be into sports and athletics,” Hafoka said. “She’s got some long legs so I’m hoping volleyball, soccer or basketball.”
Junior linebacker Aveni Leung-Wai echoed Hafoka’s certainty.
“He’ll definitely play some type of sport, hopefully football,” said Leung-Wai, the newest father on the team, with his son Ziah born only two months ago.
Junior defensive back Travis Uale, on the other hand, takes a different approach to his son Jack’s future.
“He is going to be whatever he wants to be,” Uale said. I’ll support him in whatever he does. To me it doesn’t matter. Football is my passion but it doesn’t have to be his.”
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF BEING A FATHER?
Speredon admits that the first few months of fatherhood required an adjustment. “The hardest part in the beginning was getting woken up in the middle of the night,” the 6-foot-5 senior commented. “It’s not so bad now because she sleeps well, but it was hard for a while.”
“The hardest part so far is getting up at 5 a.m. for morning workouts,” Fua said of his son, Alani Jr. “Being up with him all night and then getting up early is the hardest part.”
“Balancing everything is the most difficult part,” Uale said. “There are hard parts but the good times definitely overshadow them.”