April 10, 2012
BEAUMONT, Texas -
For Ray Woodard and Bill Bradley, life has come full circle.
Some 30 years ago, Bradley, a former NFL safety helped get Woodard recruited by the University of Texas on a football scholarship. Now, Woodard, Lamar's head football coach did a recruiting job on Bradley, convincing him to become Lamar's defensive coordinator.
"Bill had called me to recommend someone else for a job here," Woodard recalled. "Before we hung up the phone, I told him he should come here to be our defensive coordinator. I guess you could say I recruited him."
Once Bradley got to Lamar, it didn't take much to convince him to stay.
"I love Lamar. It's absolutely fantastic," Bradley said from his office that overlooks Provost Umphrey Stadium. "The facilities are tremendous. The administration is tremendous. The university is a well-run place."
It wasn't just the university and its football program that sold Bradley, a native of Palestine, Texas, on the Golden Triangle.
"The people are extremely friendly," Bradley said. "Not only that, there is a lot to do here. I never really spent any time in Beaumont before, but I really love it."
Just don't expect Bradley to spend all of his time enjoying what Beaumont has to offer. He'll be spending plenty of time in the Dauphin Athletic Complex and at practice as he implements the 3-4 defense the Cardinals will use this season.
"The young men have really taken to it," Bradley said of the players' reaction to the defense. "They're really running to the ball. We're going to put a lot more speed on the field."
Bradley has been watching plenty of video of last season's team that gave up an average of 39.1 points per game.
"They played good defense and made some big plays, but gave up too many points," he said of a Lamar squad that went 4-7 overall and 2-5 in the Southland Conference. "The players believe in the system and they're flying to the ball in practice. They're working hard. You can't coach effort."
Woodard is convinced he's put the right man in charge of the Lamar defense.
"It was a no-brainer. I knew if I could get Bill it would definitely help our program," Woodard said. "We're running the 3-4 similar to Wade Phillips' system. Bill is well-versed in that."
Bradley was a member of Phillips' staff in Buffalo, serving as defensive backs coach for three seasons. He was also defensive backs coach for the New York Jets and San Diego Chargers in the NFL, and was the defensive coordinator for Baylor University from 2004-2006. Bradley was the defensive coordinator for the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts when they won Grey Cup titles in 1996 and 1997.
"I just love coaching," said Bradley, who most recently served as a defensive backs instructor for Football University, a training program for elite youth and high school players. "I'm no longer playing football, but I'm still involved in it."
Bradley was pretty darn good on the playing field. He quarterbacked Palestine High School to the 1965 Texas state championship before going on to a standout career as a quarterback and defensive back at Texas. As a senior, he was a tri-captain of the Longhorns' squad that went 9-1-1 in 1968, ending the season with a 36-13 victory over Tennessee in the Cotton Bowl.
Selected in the third round of the 1969 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, Bradley went on to earn three All-Pro awards (1971-73) at free safety. In addition, he served as the Eagles' punter and kick returner. Bradley, who led the NFL in interceptions in both 1971 (11) and 1972 (nine), became the first player ever to lead the league in interceptions in consecutive seasons, a feat that has been matched just once since.
Bradley still holds Eagle records for career interception return yardage (536) and club single-season marks for interceptions and return yardage (11 for 249 in 1971), while sharing the team's all-time interception record with Eric Allen (34). He played in 114 NFL games, spending the 1969-76 seasons with the Eagles and the 1977 campaign with both the Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Cardinals.
"I was used on special teams at first," Bradley said. "I was the punter, the holder and the wedge breaker. I did everything on special teams."
Bradley vividly recalls his first play as a defensive back.
"I kept nagging them for a chance to play defense," he said. "I got my chance in a game where we were getting blown out by Dallas. They put a bunch of us `scrubs' in to make sure the stars don't get hurt.
"On my first play, Roger Staubach dropped back to pass to Mike Ditka, whom Dallas had just acquired from Chicago. Ditka didn't read the play right, so I stepped up and picked off the pass and ran it back 56 yards for a touchdown. That's when the coaches decided to give me a few more chances on defense."
Bradley kept that football, as well as the balls from his other interceptions.
"I have a whole room full of them," he said. "It was a $50 fine (from the league) for keeping the ball, but I thought it was worth it."
The feeling around Lamar football is that Bradley will prove his worth as a coach over and over.
The Cardinals will practice at 4 p.m. Tuesday, 7 p.m. Wednesday and 4:30 p.m. Thursday. The draft for the team's annual Red/White Scrimmage, known as the Crawfish Bowl is set for 1 p.m. Thursday. The scrimmage is set for 7 p.m. April 17 at Provost Umphrey Stadium. Admission is free.