Penn State’s Bradley becomes reassuring figure
UNIVERSITY PARK — As soon as he stepped away from the podium and walked outside the gates of Beaver Stadium, Tom Bradley breathed a sigh of relief.
The cameras flashed, and reporters trailed him as he loosened the gold tie from around his neck and spoke with legendary Penn State broadcaster Fran Fisher.
“We’ll be OK,” he whispered in Fisher’s ear as he exchanged a hug with the 88-year old. “Thanks for coming.”
There was a glimmer of sarcasm in the interim coach’s voice as he finished his sentence, a reassuring sign that Bradley’s wits were still about him. He may be a disciple of Joe Paterno, but make no mistake about it, Bradley is his own man.
“I just answered the questions honestly and openly,” Bradley said. “If you do that, you don’t have much pressure. Most guys know me. I talk from my heart. I talked to the team that way. I’m not a piece of paper guy. Everybody knows that about me. I say what I have to say.”
Bradley is in the weight room every morning when his players report to the Lasch Football Building. He’ll go locker to locker telling the athletes who needs to pay their parking tickets and pull aside those who need to return overdue library books. He checks in with the equipment managers to hear the complaints his players may not share with him, and his office door is open for player-coach discussions.
“Scrap is always a class act, and in adverse times, that’s when a person’s character is really revealed,” right tackle Chima Okoli said. “He was able to do that and say, ‘We’re not going to crumble; we’re not going to fold.’ All the pressure that was on him, he handled it very well and took a lot of pressure off us.”
Whether Bradley is at Penn State next season isn’t up to him, but that’s not keeping him from doing everything in his power to make sure his Nittany Lions are prepared for Saturday’s clash at Wisconsin.
The former Penn State player who made State College his home away from Johnstown, understands he’s been thrust in front of the media as the voice for the program time and again in the midst of the child-sex abuse scandal. His usual sense of humor was cast to the side as he addressed questions that left the program dear to his heart in shambles.
“My job is to coach as best I can,” Bradley said. “I promised that to their parents. We went in recruited them to their high school coaches, communities and friends in that area when they selected Penn State. I’m not going to back away from that promise.”
Those skeptical of the Nittany Lions’ chances to compete for a Big Ten title after the scandal broke didn’t see the players pile into Bradley’s office a little after midnight, just hours after Paterno was fired. And they didn’t see the way the players continue to come to his defense, knowing he might be fired after this season.
“I definitely feel for him because I think he’s a (heck) of a coach,” defensive tackle Devon Still said. “The way he’s coaching us now, even though we’re facing a lot of adversity, that just shows the type of person he is, and I think if given the opportunity, he would do a great job turning this program around.”