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Sunday, September 30, 2012

KU safety Bradley McDougald credits big brother for perspective in tough times

Kansas University safety Bradley McDougald (24) matches up with Northern Illinois tight end Tim Semisch in the first half of KU's game against the Huskies, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012, in DeKalb, Ill.

Kansas University safety Bradley McDougald (24) matches up with Northern Illinois tight end Tim Semisch in the first half of KU's game against the Huskies, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012, in DeKalb, Ill.

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During his four years with the Kansas University football program, wide-receiver-turned-safety Bradley McDougald has played two positions for three head coaches, lined up alongside some of the best players in school history and suffered through a trying period of consistent losing that has stretched into the first four games of his senior season.

The time has flown by, and the losing has been tough, but you would never know that from watching or talking to McDougald, who, through it all, has been the same upbeat and energetic player and person.

There’s a reason for that. And his name is Brandon McDougald, Bradley’s older brother who has served not only as Bradley’s rock but also has provided the KU senior with the perspective that football, though important, is a game and that family, strong character and appreciation of life all rank as more critical.

“It’s kind like the old grandmother a lot of people have,” Bradley said of his brother, who is three years older than he. “Kind of like that voice that’s always just good to hear. My brother is a person that has an unbelievable amount of faith in me. When you respect a person that much and they respect what you’re doing, it’s just a great feeling.”

Although Brandon’s status as the older sibling afforded him a head start on learning some of life’s lessons, the perspective he provided for Bradley came not by choice but from a bad break.

When Brandon was in fifth grade, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that eventually led to the amputation of his left leg and the end of his athletic career.

“It was a little bit harder for him,” Brandon said. “I could tell. Growing up, we really didn’t have a father figure, and he kind of looked up to me. When he saw me going through tough times, it really touched him. Even though it happened to me at an early age, it happened to him, too, and he had to deal with it all at an even earlier age.”

At the time, Bradley knew nothing about cancer and could not even pronounce the specific type that had taken his brother’s leg. What he did know was that someone close to him was suffering. From the moment he first realized his brother would spend the rest of his life on crutches to this day, Bradley vowed to keep his complaints to a minimum.

“When I saw him going through his chemotherapy and then physical therapy, I saw the pain and the fight, and it just made my life seem a little bit easier,” Bradley recalled. “The only grind I had to go through was football, but I still got to go out there and do what I wanted day in and day out.”

Bradley has carried that feeling with him ever since. Instead of quitting when he got tired, he found a way to push through. Instead of taking a day off here or there, he worked tirelessly to fine-tune his skills. And instead of celebrating and easing up once he became a Div. I football player, he kept the pedal down and shaped himself into one of the most talented and respected players on his team. All of this for and because of Brandon, who, from a distance, has stayed in Bradley’s ear to remind him to live right and take advantage of every opportunity.

“That’s probably the biggest thing my brother does is keep me level-headed,” Bradley said. “He really reminds me of the blessings that I have in front of me. The more success somebody has and the more compliments you get, the bigger your head might get. But when I go home, it’s nothing but a humbling experience because I’m just the little brother, the little guy, and I love it.”

Although being away from his hometown of Dublin, Ohio, has been tough, the deep bond he has with his brother has helped. Many days, at random moments, Bradley will receive a text message from Brandon which includes an inspirational quote or a particularly meaningful song lyric. Most come from music, because Brandon is not actually much of a sports fan.

“Unless it’s Bradley playing, I’m not watching it,” Brandon said. “So don’t come over talking about ‘SportsCenter.’”

While he has no love for the local pro scene and could care less about Ohio State sports, Brandon has attended more than his share of athletic events. That’s thanks to Bradley, who, since middle school, has kept his brother busy with football and basketball games and track meets. Although he may not have known all of the rules and did not really care to learn about the opposing teams, it didn’t take much to understand why Brandon was in the stands hooting and hollering.

“He came to all of my high school basketball games with an airbrushed picture of me on his shirt,” Bradley recalled while shaking his head and smiling. “He’s just always in my corner. I definitely don’t see it as any more pressure. I enjoy when I know he’s up there watching me play.”

Added Brandon: “I really feel like I live through Bradley. I played sports when I was younger, but after surgery, I’ve just been living that through him. I love watching him play. I’m his biggest fan.”

A couple of years ago, Brandon welcomed a daughter, Alani, into his life. In addition to instantly falling in love with his new niece, who will turn 3 in November, Bradley said the new addition brought out a different side in the brother he already respected so much.

“I think it really motivated him,” Bradley said. “He said he never had that thing that would just push him. He said sports had always been the thing that drives me, and he said he never really felt like he had that until she was born.”

Brandon said he has enjoyed watching Alani bond with Bradley even though the two have spent a limited amount of time together because of uncle Bradley’s football commitments at KU.

“It’s like having another kid,” said Brandon, laughing. “They go and play together all day, and he’s a loving guy, like a big kid.”

Like most college football players, Bradley hopes what he has shown on Saturdays will earn him a chance to play on Sundays in the NFL. The ties to pro football possessed by new KU coach Charlie Weis and defensive coordinator Dave Campo can only help. Bradley’s current status as the team’s leader in tackles (34), tackles for loss (3), interceptions (2), forced fumbles (2) and sacks (1) also doesn’t hurt.

But it’s not like Bradley is obsessed with making it to the NFL. It’s a goal, no doubt, but he has other goals, too. Brandon said he and his baby brother talk all the time about the future, but made sure to point out that Bradley has spent nearly as much time dreaming about becoming a coach, a teacher or even a principal — anything that gives him a chance to mentor children.

“That’s the only thing, besides football, that I’ve seen him get so passionate about,” Brandon said.

Passionate is just one of the words that describes the way with which Bradley has approached this season. Even though offseason conditioning quickly became the bye week, and Bradley’s Jayhawks sit at just 1-3, the 6-foot-1, 209-pound free safety has savored every practice, film session and tackle.

“I realized, when we checked into camp way back in August that I was only gonna have 12 opportunities guaranteed,” he said. “But as soon as we got locked into the season, I promised myself that I was gonna take ’em one week at a time. I love to play every Saturday, go out there and get ’em, but the bye week does help slow it down.”

Brandon also would not mind if things slowed down. After all, he’s not ready to stop watching Bradley play ball. He has been to Lawrence for a couple of games during the past few seasons but hopes to make it to as many as possible this season with their dad. They’re talking about next week’s K-State game in Manhattan and probably will make the trek to the Oklahoma game in October. And they’re definitely headed to West Virginia on Dec. 1. That’s the one that’s closest to their Ohio home and could very well be Bradley’s final game as a Jayhawk.

Like any set of siblings, the McDougald brothers have been there for each other in every way imaginable throughout the years. From their younger days back in Ohio to today, with nearly 700 miles separating them, Brandon has helped keep Bradley grounded during the high times and grinding during the low.

“I know my big brother’s always going to be there and always have my back,” Bradley said. “When I think everything’s at its worst, I can call him on Skype and just start cracking up without him even saying a word. It’s one of those unbelievable connections in life. He’s my best friend, the type of person I’d do anything for.”

Brandon said the feeling was mutual and insisted that the brotherly support has been a two-way street, with Bradley providing as much pride and joy for Brandon.

“That’s why I love Bradley so much,” Brandon said. “I’ve been watching him since high school and middle school and he always keeps a good attitude even if things are rough or not going his way. My brother or not, I love him for that.”

Comments

TheGiftedOne 2 years, 1 month ago

I was just thinking tonight how loaded the Big XII is in football at the moment... just look at the coaches right now.

BU- Art Briles: has turned the Baylor program... thanks in large part to a certain Hiesman trophy winner. Has to be considered a frontrunner for the Arkansas job.

ISU- Paul Rhodes: Could be labeled the "Bill Snyder" of ISU football. Grew up just down the road from Ames... Rhodes has his dream job and won't leave unless fired.

KU- Charlie Weis: High profile NFL/College coordinator and super bowl champion.

KSU- Bill Snyder: Only coach to ever succeed at KSU. 164 career wins.

OU- Bob Stoops: National champion at OU... 7 Big XII campionships.

OSU- Mike Gundy: He is man... He is now older than 40... and the wins just keep stacking up with 41 wins in the last four years.

TCU- Gary Patterson: Only non-BCS coach to ever win a BCS game... worst season at TCU since 2005 was an 8-5 year.

Tech- Tommy Tuberville: Undefeated season in 2005 at Auburn... 121 career wins.

TX- Mack Brown: National champion at TX, .783 career winning percentage at Texas.

WVU- Dana Holgerson: Considered to be one of the best offensive minds in the sport.

jhox 2 years, 1 month ago

It certainly doesn't make Weis' rebuilding job any easier, that's for sure.

Ethan Berger 2 years, 1 month ago

Boise won two bcs game and so has Utah pre pac 12 era. Both before TCU won theirs.

TheGiftedOne 2 years, 1 month ago

yea you're right... thanks for the correction.

Dan Pawlowski 2 years, 1 month ago

I am with jhawkdan42, just go away. Making your post all caps just screams "No one listens to me, because I have nothing to say".

VaJay 2 years, 1 month ago

No. Please, as stated quite wisely by jhawkdan. Go Away and take your stupid ALL CAPS with you. There would be no message board interest from anyone with any brain cells if the posts were all like yours. And cut the "foaming at the mouth" diatribe when you're not adding any value.

Andy Tweedy 2 years, 1 month ago

You do realize that in his first few years at KU, Mangino lost to the likes of Toledo, Bowling Green and UNLV right?

hawk316 2 years, 1 month ago

Ok, Rogers, time to come clean. Are you really Mark Mangino?

vd 2 years, 1 month ago

Ah, the great Mangino. Look at the list of coaches in thegiftedone's post. Then compare it to the coaches the great Mangino had to compete with. Especially that one year he had a winning conference record. Such greats as, Bill Calahan, Ron Prince. Gene Chizek, and other notables that I can't remember their names, the great Colorado coach, (you know the one that Turner Gill beat), maybe Sherman from T exas A&M. Ah the great MM.

W Keith Swinehart II 2 years, 1 month ago

Now and then we need a reminder of the things in life that are truly important. Bradley has that perspective that will continue to bring success and peace of mind in his life. Great story, Matt. Should be required reading for the many negative Nancys who want to fire every KU coach who lost a game.

LSHawk 2 years, 1 month ago

Hey loser how about another beer before you pass out, jeez....The Mangino thing is in the past, this current admin. had nothing to do with firing him so let it go. Mangino is not coming back and our football program is moving forward, to bad drunk stupid fans like you can not seem to......

okiedave 2 years, 1 month ago

ROGERSSTATE80 is not a Jayhawk. He is most likely a 1980 graduate of Rogers State College in Claremore, Oklahoma. Most likely an OSU fan posing as a Jayhawk who comes on our board to post negative dribble because -- well, that's just seems to be his personality.

okiedave 2 years, 1 month ago

Has Rice sent us a thank you note yet?

John Mueller 2 years, 1 month ago

Negativity, pessimism and complaining are the domains of a loser.

Dude is a loser thru and thru.

It takes zero intelligence, perspective or energy to be negative all the time.

The University of Kansas is such an amazing place. We have much to be proud of and thankful for starting with HCBS. Congrats on a well deserved extension.

I hope we get to reward HCCW with the same extension in the next few years...

GO JAYHAWKS!!

BEAT k-state!!!

Clarence Haynes 2 years, 1 month ago

Great article about a young man who has lived with adversity and you go through this tirade! So inconsiderate!

Jayhawk1116 2 years, 1 month ago

Okay, Rogers is making me regret the fact that we can use CAPS in our comments now. Somebody's always gotta ruin it for everybody else...

Michael Maris 2 years, 1 month ago

Really good reading. Jayhawk nation should be proud of Bradley Mcdougald decision to attend Kansas. He was offered by "The Ohio State University" to play the position that he now plays. But, McDougald chose to play at Kansas to take a shot at WR position. He could've chose to stay closer to home and play in the MAC or in the B1G at some other school. I wish McDougald all the best in what ever future endeavors he takes on.

Ethan Berger 2 years, 1 month ago

Most 12 year old girls don't post all caps as much as you unless of course you also are a 12 year old girl. Which would explain everything.

Dan Pawlowski 2 years, 1 month ago

If all we have is family then we are blessed.

KGphoto 2 years ago

Sorry ralster. That was a reply to a post that is no longer here. So I guess they just put me here instead. Weird.

KGphoto 2 years ago

I'd suggest the removal of sofiax's spam, but I'm afraid someone would start ranting about the 1st amendment.

KGphoto 2 years ago

Interesting stuff. Great story.

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