There are two sides to the argument and Shaun Bradley knows them both. But the chance to suit up one final time for Temple’s football team supersedes any idea of risking injury by playing in a bowl game.
A senior linebacker, Bradley is an NFL prospect. At 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, he is considered a little undersize, but he has freakish athletic ability and toughness. He’s such a good athlete that coach Rod Carey gave him some carries earlier this season as a running back.
Bradley also has something else that NFL people are looking for: an insatiable desire to compete. Bradley loves the game, so much so that he has never considered sitting out Temple’s bowl game.
Temple will learn Sunday which bowl it will appear in, but it doesn’t matter to Bradley. It could be the the Military Bowl, the Boca Raton Bowl, the Gasparilla Bowl, or any other.
What motivates Bradley isn’t the particular bowl but the fact that he can wear that No. 5 one final time.
Temple has a tradition of awarding single-digit numbers to players who exhibit toughness and dedication to the program. Bradley was a no-brainer to be a single-digit performer, one who savors his final chance. He was awarded it before his junior year.
“I am playing in the bowl game. I am playing regardless,” Bradley said shortly after a 49-17 win over UConn last weekend, his final college game at Lincoln Financial Field.
He supplied the simplest of explanations when asked why he wants to play when there is always the risk of an injury that might affect his NFL future.
“Because I get to play one more time,” he said.
While players who have this attitude are often applauded and those who sit out are frequently criticized, there is a good argument to sitting out a bowl game.
Remember Jaylon Smith? He was the Notre Dame all-American linebacker who shredded his knee while playing in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. Some speculated his career was over, but to his credit, Smith returned to the field. He was drafted in the second round by Dallas and, after missing the 2016 season, has worked his way to being one of the bright young linebackers in the NFL.
Without the injury, he would have been a sure first-rounder, most likely a top-10 pick, so the injury cost him bundles of money initially. In August, he signed a lucrative extension with the Cowboys.
A lot of football players saw what happened to Smith and decided that playing in a bowl game wasn’t worth the risk, and there is nothing wrong with that line of thinking.
Last year, Temple cornerback Rock Ya-Sin and running back Ryquell Armstead sat out the Owls’ Independence Bowl loss to Duke. Ya-Sin was drafted in the second round by Indianapolis, and Armstead was taken in the fifth round by Jacksonville.
Bradley said he respected anybody’s decision. He is doing what he feels is right for him.
Bradley has progressed from a player who had no other Division I offers while coming out of Rancocas Valley to one who has started 37 games. The bowl game will be his 50th game for Temple.
He was a first-team all-conference selection in each of the last two seasons. This year, he leads Temple with 79 tackles. He has eight tackles for losses, three pass breakups, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
Bradley also has been one of the team leaders since he hit the starting lineup as a sophomore. In victory or defeat, he has always been a stand-up guy. Now, he is winding down a celebrated career at Temple, on the field and in the classroom. This month, he will earn a degree in adult and organizational development.
He was emotional when discussing his final game at the Linc. Yet that will be nothing compared with the bowl appearance — his final Temple game, period.
“The next one will be really tough," Bradley said. “It will mean everything to me.”