DALLAS - The bystanders at Bishop Lynch High School in Dallas who were checking out Penn State's practice didn't have to wait long to get a glimpse of the interim head coach. Tom Bradley was the first person on the field for his team's workout Tuesday morning.
Bradley immediately started walking around the track next to graduate assistant Gus Felder, affably exclaiming to those within earshot, "Hey, I've got to be matched up against someone I can keep up with, kind of like when I was playing." That drew mild laughter as he walked side-by-side with the mammoth former lineman.
Bradley's attitude and exuberance seemed to set the tone for the day as he continued to play the role of gracious host, all but handing out greeting cards.
A media assemblage, mostly Dallas locals, then was entertained by a short news conference Bradley held before the Nittany Lions (9-3) practiced. The coach was upbeat, pleasant, and witty. He immediately was asked whether there is frustration with the time line of the coaching search, and not knowing where he stands in terms of having the word "interim" removed from his title.
"Everyone makes a bigger deal out of that than it is," he said. "We are out here fighting for our lives, playing a great Houston team. I've got guys dying, doing whatever I ask them. And as I told someone, whatever happens, I'm going to hang in there to the last minute, doing whatever I can for my players."
Bradley then got into his opponent for the Jan. 2 TicketCity Bowl, the Houston Cougars, whom he made sound like something out of the Matrix Reloaded.
"No, we have not played anyone like them all year long in the way they move the football," Bradley said. "That's a whole different animal. Obviously, to duplicate what they do is very, very difficult, and we do know that. We haven't seen anyone like them in a long time, the way they move that football. We cannot duplicate that type of attack, so it is going to be very, very difficult to prepare for - the precision they have."
He also praised Houston quarterback Case Keenum.
"Hey, give the guy credit," Bradley said. "He holds just about every NCAA record for offense there is, and that's pretty darn good."
He noted that the game Houston (12-1) lost this year, to Southern Miss for the Conference USA title, was more of a case of the Cougars' stopping themselves.
"They [Southern Miss] got some turnovers and things of that nature that changed that game a little bit. I'm sure they [Houston] will correct those issues and be well prepared for us after this time off."
No one expected that the subject of former Penn State coach Joe Paterno wouldn't come up in this news conference. It did. And Bradley was ready with his answer.
"I have not talked with Coach Paterno at all," he said. "I talked to him once right after this whole thing happened [Paterno's firing]. I don't call him because I know what the answer is going to be: 'Why are you calling me? Take care of the players.' So I have my hands full and he knows it."
Bradley finished his news conference by insisting that regardless of what anyone has heard about the Nittany Lions' reluctance to participate in the TicketCity Bowl, his team is locked and loaded, ready to rumble.
"If you are a great football team and were told you were going to play another great football team in Parking Lot B, you'd say, 'What time?' Any time you get a chance to compete against someone as good as Houston is, it's exciting," he said.