Nothing was given to Temple linebacker Shaun Bradley. Not even a scholarship, since the Owls had run out.
The player named to watch lists for the Chuck Bednarik and Bronko Nagurski awards for top defensive player in the country began his college career by committing to Temple but not actually showing up at Temple.
The Owls were out of scholarships. Bradley became what is known as a grayshirt. He attended classes in the fall of 2015 at Burlington County College, then showed up in the spring, part of Temple’s 2016 recruiting class.
A win for Temple, you could say, since he’s still at 10th and Diamond, one season to go.
“The grayshirt was kind of my fault,’’ Bradley said Thursday at Temple’s media day. “I kind of took too long to commit. I was dragging it out a little bit.”
A reminder that college football is a business. It’s not unusual for scholarship offers to have a time limit on them. So if Bradley had committed a month earlier, he would have had the scholarship for 2015?
“Actually, not even a month,’’ Bradley said. “Like two weeks.”
New Temple coach Rod Carey isn’t complaining about how it worked out.
“He’s so fun to be around,’’ Carey said. “He’s one of those guys, you just watch him, it takes about three or four plays, you just go, ‘Oh, yep, he’s different.’ ‘’
Being around Bradley, Carey said, you see his attitude sets him apart.
“He loves practice,’’ Carey said. “When you listen to Shaun, he is having fun at practice. When I played, I hated practice. Now as a coach, I love it. He loves it.”
“I love getting better, love working at it,’’ Bradley said the day before Temple’s first practice of summer camp. “I”m shaking right now, ready to get out there.”
You probably know about the single-digit uniform numbers awarded to Temple tough guys. Bradley wears No. 5. He became a starter two seasons ago and hasn’t looked back, racking up 169 tackles.
“I’m a senior now,’’ Bradley said. “I always used to hear, ‘Yo, when you’re a senior, it’s going to be a different urgency — you’ve only got one left.’ As soon as I became a senior, it starts getting closer to camp, I keep thinking about it, ‘Man, I’ve got six months here. It’s my last time.' ”
Of being on the Bednarik watch list, Bradley said, “It’s definitely a good honor. I grew up playing NCAA [video game] and I looked at those kinds of awards.”
Temple had a strong veteran group of linebackers when he showed up.
“They didn’t baby us,’’ Bradley said. “They didn’t try to walk us in. It was tough love. … I don’t know what kind of player I would be if they didn’t.”
What was the Avery Williams version of tough love? Williams was undersized but fierce, a pretty fair role model.
“It was kind of explicit, to be honest with you,’’ Bradley said. “It was more like, shut up and work. Ain’t no talking, don’t cry, don’t complain. Just put your head down and work, and we’ll talk later.”
Bradley had doubled as a running back and defensive back in high school, putting up 1,467 yards and 22 touchdowns as a senior at Rancocas Valley. His first year at Temple, he got on the field just a bit on special teams.
The next spring, he became a linebacker.
“We argue, we fight, everything,’’ said fellow linebacker Chapelle Russell, last season’s Owls comeback player of the year, returning from a second ACL tear to lead the nation with five fumble recoveries. He’s No. 3 on the roster.
“We’re brothers, honestly. It’s fun to say since he plays right next to me. We go at it every day, whether it’s who weighs the most this day, what you did in your last set of squats — even if it’s five pounds more. We compete on everything we do.”
While Bradley is on the watch lists for top defensive player, Russell is on the watch list for the Butkus award for top linebacker.
“I want to win his award and I’m not even nominated for it,’’ Russell said.
That competition started immediately.
“He wasn’t a linebacker at first. It’s crazy to say, when he first came to the linebacker room, he had to get his feet wet,’’ Russell said. “He wasn’t used to playing linebacker. We would hit a couple of times and he’d look at me like, ‘Damn, bro, you’re really hitting me.’ Yeah, brother, this is what it is.”
It took Bradley zero time to get with the program. When he became a starter in 2017, the opener was at Notre Dame.
“We were thrown in the fire,’’ Bradley said. “I hadn’t played a snap and started the first game. I was actually clueless.”
That didn’t mean he was intimidated. Bradley caught some headlines, announcing before the South Bend opener that the Owls would “blow them out.”
It didn’t quite work out that way. Final score: Irish 49, Owls 16.
“I think it was like the third play of the game, they ran like a power away from me. They did a puller, and I didn’t see the puller; I saw him, but I didn’t go with him — I just stood and looked straight because I didn’t know what I was looking at,’’ Bradley said.
Touchdown, ND. Bradley remembers the play going for about 60 yards. (It was actually a 30-yard run by Josh Adams on the second play from scrimmage, after a 33-yard Irish completion on the first play.)
“I was watching him run, thinking the whole time, ‘Wow, man, we’re at Notre Dame,’ ‘’ Bradley said, laughing at the memory of his younger self.
That prediction …
“I go back sometimes and look at the tweets,’’ Bradley said. “Just to look at them. As soon as I got to my phone after the game, I was like, ‘They’re killing me already.’ ‘’
Now he’s on a watch list for best of the best alongside a few Irish players.
“I wish we could play them again,’’ Bradley said. “To see where we’d be now.”