Ed Bradley, Steelers Linebacker, 1972-1975
First, can you let readers know about your work since your NFL days and how you got started in this line of business?
For the past thirty-one years I’ve been in the scrap metal recycling business here in Winston-Salem, N.C. I got started in the business through a friendship in an established family-owned business, Brenner Iron and Metal Co. Having no previous experience I started as a “rookie: learning the business from the ground up.
It’s been through many changes in ownership, gone through bankruptcy, reacquisition of the business, a merger and finally a buyout four years ago by Omnisource. Omnisource is the metals recycling division of Steel Dynamics out of Fort Wayne, IN.
What else are you doing with your post NFL days?
Well, I have three grown kids, Jennifer, Katie and jeff, all of whom I am very proud. Two are married but no grandkids yet! And all live and work here locally.
For recreation I enjoy playing golf and play in a number of celebrity events down in this region. With that I also have chaired a celebrity golf tournament for twenty-three years benefitting the local children’s hospital, Brenner Children’s Hospital. In those twenty-three years we have raised over $1.7 million dollars for childcare.
And finally, I remarried back in ’05 to Jeannine Davidson from Meridian, MS, built a new home and live happily with our three dogs!
You were the fourth round pick of the Steelers in 1972. Were you aware then if the poor history of the team and the recent work Coach Noll was doing to turn the team around?
Embarrassingly, no. Having grown up in Connecticut, right outside of New York City, I was a New York Giants fan. Remember, we didn’t have ESPN and all the 24/7 sports media back then. Of course, I know of the Steelers but my saving grace was that my closest friends and teammates at Wake Forest were all from the Pittsburgh area.
They enlightened me about the Steelers and “the Burg'”.
Regarding Coach Noll I had little or no knowledge about him. To illustrate that, when I went up for rookie orientation he came up and introduced himself and I said “Hey Chuck nice to meet ya!” I wasn’t really sure who he was. Well, later on when we had out first group meeting and he took the podium…I slid down in my seat and said to myself “Damn, way to go Ed. He’s the head coach. Chuck Noll!”
Who were the players and coaches that helped you most as a rookie and how did they do so?
I came in as a middle linebacker, a position held by incumbent Henry Davis and his backup, vet Brian Stenger. With that, there wasn’t a whole lot of tutoring going on to assist a rookie after their jobs. I learned by studying, watching and listening under linebacker coach Charlie Summers.
Your father played professional football as well. How did he help you – what did he teach you about his experiences and did it help you?
Yes, he did for George Halas and the Chicago Bears back in the early 50’s. But, no he really did not give me any pearls of wisdom. I just know he was very, very proud of me.
Now, my son Jeff Bradley signed as a free agent with the Steelers back in ’09. I told him to pay attention. Keep his eyes and ears open, soak up everything you can like a sponge and bust your ass…..and lastly, that you better have a “thick skin”. Well, he calls me one morning from camp and says “Dad, you were right. You gotta have a thick skin. They released me today.”
Such is pro ball…
The team was loaded at linebacker when you were drafted. Was that a source of frustration for you?
Frustrated? Are you kidding me?? I was happy for the opportunity. The chance to make the team and play pro ball. Something I had dreamed of as a kid.
Who were some of the biggest characters on those Steelers teams and what made them so?
How about Terry Hanratty, aka “Ratso”, a practical jokester who always had something going. Then the front four? L.C. “Hollywood Bags” Greenwood, Dwight “Mad Dog” White, Ernie “Arrowhead” Holmes, and of course “Mean” Joe Green. Those characters could have had their own cartoon show.
And aside from the players you can’t leave out Head Trainer Ralph Berlin and equipment men Jackie Hart and Tony Parisi, as much a part of the team as any player or coach. Those three ruled their venues with complete autonomy and they let you know it…every day!
Who were some of the toughest guys you faced in practice and on other teams?
Well, since I was on defense and we had all the tough guys….no issues! Kidding…going up against the intensity of a Mike Webster or the strength of Job Kolb every day was no picnic! As far as opponents? Hey man, it’s the NFL. Put your big boy pants on!
How competitive were you with the other linebackers on the team and did all of you get along well?
Well, let’s look at that. You had the “A team”…Andy Russell, Jack Ham and Jack Lambert as the starters. All three were Pro Bowlers. Ham and Lambert were eventual Hall of Famers. Then the “B team”…Marv Kellum, Loren Toews and myself. With Coach Widenhofer we met together, studied together and practiced together. But, Andy, Jack and Jack were the starters. Marv, Loren and I got our reps within the system but our jobs (outside of special teams) was to be ready if one of those went down.
You won two Super Bowls with those Steelers teams. What are you favorite memories of those games and the weeks of hype leading up to them?
The first Super Bowl XI in New Orleans of course is my most memorable. Being there in the locker room to see Pete Rozelle hand the Lombardi Trophy to “The Chief” Mr. Rooney remains a vivid memory of that day.
Super Bowl X in Miami was a much different environment than New Orleans. But as a team having the experience of going through the media craziness before, we stayed on task. I remember Chuck (I could call him that now that I was a four-year vet) telling us how to handle the media. “Tell them something you read in yesterday’s paper. They will think they have a scoop!” He knew how to keep us grounded.
You had an outstanding game in Super Bowl IX substituting for an injured Jack Lambert who left the game in the second quarter. Did the Vikings try to take advantage of your presence in the lineup and what did you do to frustrate the Vikings and play so well?
I can’t say they tried to take advantage of me. In fact, I’m not sure they even knew I was in there at first. I know Curt Gowdy with NBC didn’t. With Jack’s number 58 and mine 38, and the level of the defense being the same, every play I made at the beginning he called Lambert instead of Brady.
How do I know that? My grandmother watching the game back in Connecticut told me. Boy, was she mad at Gowdy for the longest time after that.
Anyway, being a part of the two weeks of preparation for the Vikings, I knew what I had to do. Of course, playing within the system we had and the caliber of players in front of me and to the left and right and behind me, how couldn’t I look good?
Tell ya what though, I was so pumped up after I got the word Jack was down and I was going to go in that I don’t think my feet ever touched the ground that entire second half. And no one was more relieved than me to hear that final gun go off, knowing we were Super Bowl champions!
You left the Steelers in 1975 and ended up in Seattle. Why did you lead and how hard was that for you to leave?
I left because I asked to be put into the expansion pool. As much as I loved being a Steeler, I wanted to be a starter and knew that I could be. I just happened to be playing behind an All-Pro in Pittsburgh.
Yes, it was hard to leave the Steelers. I looked at a new opportunity in Seattle, where I became their starting middle linebacker and a captain of that inaugural team in ’76.
Any last thoughts for readers?
Although I played for the Seahawks and finished up with the 49’ers, I have always remained “a Steeler” at heart! The family and I always try to make a game up in Pittsburgh each season. And that “Steeler Nation” is alive and well down here in North Carolina!