Kevin Schnepf, Published January 17 2013
Schnepf: Jaguars hop on the Gus bus by hiring Bradley
“He was such a go-getter, he had so much gusto, so his brothers called him Gus,” said Gloria Bradley, the mother of four boys and two girls. “The name just stuck.”
For good reason.
Displaying a smile that no one forgets and oozing with energy that won’t quit, Gus Bradley has worked his way up the football ladder – from a player and coach at North Dakota State to an assistant coach with Tampa Bay and Seattle and now head coach in the National Football League.
Wednesday night, Gloria Bradley got a phone call from her son: “Mom, I’m going to be the head coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars.”
The official announcement was made Thursday morning. And today, the 46-year-old Bradley will be introduced at a news conference. This was, as they say, probably meant to be. After all, the family of Roy and Gloria Bradley were pretty athletic.
Gus’ brother Scott was a backup linebacker at Iowa State, playing behind eventual Minnesota Vikings player Matt Blair. Pat played football at Concordia in the early 1970s. Kelly was a quarterback who led Montana State to a national championship in 1984.
Sister Lynn is married to Gene Stritesky, an Ogilvie, Minn., football coach who will soon be inducted into the Minnesota Coaches Hall of Fame. And sister, Jody Boraas, has a son, Sam, who played football at NDSU.
Gloria recently discovered what Gus wrote when his sixth-grade teacher asked students to jot down what they wanted to be when they grew up. “I want to be in the NFL,” Gus wrote.
But even when Gus was playing football at NDSU, coaching wasn’t his focus. That was until former Bison head coach Rocky Hager witnessed how Gus interacted with kids during a youth football camp.
“He was like the Pied Piper,” Hager said. “When he asked those kids to do something, they did it. I told him he should think about coaching. He’s got it, whatever it might be.”
As a punter and free safety for the 1988 national championship Bison, Gus saw things most other players didn’t, according to Hager. That’s why Hager hired him as a graduate assistant in 1990.
After a stint as a defensive coordinator at Fort Lewis College in Colorado from 1992 to 1995, Gus returned to NDSU – where he eventually became the defensive coordinator for current head coach Craig Bohl. Ironically, Bradley was a finalist for the head coaching job Bohl got a decade ago.
“You got to have patience and let God decide,” Gloria said of the situation back then.
Bradley’s chance to reach the NFL came quite by chance. As NDSU’s defensive coordinator, he got a call from Tampa Bay assistant Monte Kiffin inquiring about Bison assistant coach Willie Mack Garza.
After a lengthy conversation with Kiffin, Bradley and his wife left for an island vacation. When he returned to the mainland, he called the NDSU office and asked: “Is Willie Mack going to Tampa?”
“No,” was the answer. “But it sounds like you are.”
Kiffin was so impressed with the conversation he had with Gus, he hired him. After three seasons at Tampa, he was hired as the defensive coordinator at Seattle – earning a reputation as a fiery coach who demanded and often got the most out of his players.
His defenses improved each of the last three years – ranking first in points allowed this past season. That was impressive enough for Jacksonville to avoid the obvious by hiring a hotshot offensive genius.
“The way their defense performed merited a serious look,” Hager said. “Once you get to know him, it’s hard not to gravitate toward him.
“There are some people in the world who are givers, some who are takers and some who are users. Gus is the ultimate giver and he can turn any user and taker into a giver. Gus has a way to capture people and they buy in.”
Gloria couldn’t agree more.
“He cares so much about people, that comes out really strong,” said Gloria, who admits she was responsible for adding the name Paul ahead of Casey on his birth certificate.
“The kids wanted to name him Casey and at the last minute I thought, ‘Does he really want to be known as Casey all his life?’ ”
“Besides,” Gloria said. “Gus sounds more like a coach’s name.”
Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549