An only child, new Kansas University linebackers coach Todd Bradford felt needed at home by both parents, the cancer patient and the caretaker, so he put his career on hold.
“I went home for what I expected to be a short time because my mom wasn’t doing well,” Bradford said during a recent interview in the chancellor’s lounge of the Anderson Family football complex. “I was out for four seasons.”
During his mother’s illness, Bradford said he never looked for a job. The way he saw it, he already had one, helping his father be there for his mother until she died nine days after Christmas.
“Coach (David) Beaty called me near the end of her run and asked if I was interested in getting back in coaching if it goes how it looked like it was going,” Bradford said.
Nothing Beaty heard from anyone after that conversation changed his mind that this veteran coach who had worked in Conference USA, the Big Ten and the Big 12 was the voice of experience the staff needed.
Bradford last worked at Maryland in 2011 as defensive coordinator for Randy Edsall in his first year at the school. Before that, Bradford was defensive coordinator at Southern Miss under current North Carolina coach Larry Fedora and twice coached against Kansas in that job. He left his position as linebackers coach at Oklahoma State to take the Southern Miss job.
Beaty hired Bradford after Kevin Kane returned to Northern Illinois to take a promotion to defensive coordinator.
As part of doing their homework on Bradford, Beaty and defensive coordinator Clint Bowen both called Fedora.
“Larry Fedora loved him to death and said you can’t make a better hire,” Bowen said. “I’ve since talked to Larry and told him he was right. (Bradford) is very knowledgeable, great with the kids, a true football coach, great asset to our program. There’s a reason he worked his way up the ladder and became a successful coordinator on both the offensive and defensive side. The guy knows what he’s talking about.”
A veteran of 25 years as a college football coach, Bradford once was offensive coordinator for Brigham Young. He has known Beaty since KU’s head coach was working in the high school ranks. Bradford signed one of Beaty’s players, Justin Gent, who went on to become a starting linebacker for Oklahoma State.
When asked what Bradford brings to the program, players and staff mates quickly mention his ability to explain things clearly.
“When they can see what you’re telling them is working that helps them to buy in even more,” Bradford said. “Kids crave coaching when they can see you’re coaching them and they’re doing better by doing what you say.”
A native of Salt Lake City, Utah, and a 1986 graduate of Southern Utah, Bradford, 52, has coached at, in order, Southern Utah, New Hampshire, Lehigh, Eastern Michigan, Louisiana Tech, Wisconsin, Middle Tennessee State, BYU, Oklahoma State, Southern Miss and Maryland.
He has been assigned to Dallas and the East Coast, familiar recruiting areas for him.
Bowen appreciates having such an experienced sounding board on the defensive staff and appeared to have clicked with him immediately, going all the way back to a job interview that quickly turned into a chalk-talk session.
“We’re sitting there in a hotel room, wherever we were, San Antonio, I think, and it turned into, ‘Tell me more about this. What about when you experimented with that? How did you do that?’ It became two guys talking football, throwing ideas out there,” Bowen said. “You could tell right away he had been through a lot of battles, seen a lot of football. When you’re in this thing, you kind of learn there a lot of great ideas and a lot of those great ideas stink. It was just refreshing to know how much he knows. Then to bring him here and watch him teach, he can break things down in a way they can learn and understand it.”
Most of the time anyway. Bradford was reminded during a recent practice of the value of forever staying mindful of closing the generation gap between coaches and players.
“We put in a call, ‘Toto,’ and we had signal that had to do with a dog and not one kid on our team knew what Toto was,” Bradford said. “They were like, ‘Isn’t that a band?’ ‘No, it’s not a band. It’s Toto from the Wizard of Oz.’ ‘Coach, what are you talking about?’ ”
As with all college coaches, Bradford has learned how to communicate with recruits 140 characters at a time.
“You have to stay on it,” Bradford said. “We all have Facebook pages. We all have Twitter accounts. We all have Instagrams. My kids laugh like crazy that they can follow me on Twitter. They can follow me on Facebook. They can follow me on Instagram. That’s part of how it is in recruiting. It’s funny, when I started recruiting, you didn’t talk to a kid until December first and you signed him on the first week in February. Those days are long gone. An eighth-grader got offered by USC this week.”
Whatever Bradford brings as a recruiter is a bonus. His veteran voice, eyes and ears as a coach bring needed experience to the defensive staff.
“Great, great coach,” Bowen said.