Bradshaw stars on, off the field at Brooks

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Bradshaw stars on, off the field at Brooks

No wonder Ahmad Bradshaw has trouble getting any attention from college recruiters. When they look for Brooks' 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior quarterback on the Internet, they often are exposed to running back Ahmad Bradshaw of the New York Giants instead.

But the high school version is rapidly making a reputation of his own. Last Friday, he ran for three touchdowns and passed for another as Brooks snapped Austin's nine-game winning streak 49-12 in the second round of the Class 4A playoff.

Coach James Brown's team is in rarified air. The Eagles (8-2), who started 1-2 with losses to highly rated Kaneland 25-24 and Rock Island 33-28, will put their seven-game winning streak on the line against Evergreen Park (8-3) this weekend in a quarterfinal match-up at Evergreen Park.

Since the Public League began participating in the state playoff in 1979, only three representatives (Hubbard, Lane Tech, Tilden) have reached the semifinals and only one (Robeson in 1982) has advanced to the championship game.

"We had a lot of adversity in the beginning of the year," Bradshaw said. "We had to jump the gates to practice on our own field. But we always come together. What I learned when we played Kaneland and Rock Island is we can play with anybody. Our goal is to be the first Public League team to win the state title."

Brown wouldn't be surprised. "This is one of the best teams I have seen. They work hard in class and on the field. We have 11 Division I players. We have kids who scored 25 on the ACT and have 3.6 grade-point averages on a 5.0 scale. I thought we'd be undefeated. But things worked out against us," the coach said.

That's because Brown heeded some advice from Hubbard coach Elton Harris, whom he assisted for six years. "Coach Harris said to schedule tough opponents early. Last year, we lost to Kaneland 44-0 and to Rock Island by 14. But we played them tougher this year. We were one play from winning both games. You've got to get tested early so it won't be a shock in the playoff," Brown said.

He thinks the strategy will pay off. Most of his players started as freshmen. "They took bumps and bruises. But they stayed together. They have a special bond. They go to the park on Sunday to work out and they watch TV together. They have worked hard for this," Brown said.

Nobody has worked harder than Bradshaw. He has a 4.39 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale with honors courses. He has scholarship offers from West Point, Illinois, Northern Illinois, Stanford, Wisconsin, Air Force, Syracuse and Fordham.

"You can't rely on football to get where you want to go," Bradshaw said. "One of my coaches is paralyzed from the neck down. A friend of mine was killed on his birthday two weeks ago. You have to take academics seriously."

Bradshaw plans to study athletic training or law or pre-med or broadcast journalism in college. He also wants to play quarterback. Some schools are recruiting him as an athlete, which spells wide receiver or defensive back.

"I could play any position but I want to play quarterback because I'm good at it and that's what I've been doing since seventh grade," he said. "I'd like to attend Michigan State, Fordham, West Point or Wisconsin or any Big Ten school that has my major and where I can fit into football."

In 10 games, he has passed for over 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushed for over 900 yards and 13 touchdowns.

"He is the trigger of this team," Brown said. "We have a lot of great kids but he's the leader on offense."

Bradshaw grew up in Bronzeville, near 44th and Prairie. He played for the Mighty Men youth football program near Dunbar. He played basketball at Beasley but his mother got him involved in football and he soon realized that he was better at football, that he had enough talent to play at another level.

"I love football more," he said. "Football teaches me to work with people, to come together with people, to overcome adversity, to never give up. It is a family oriented sport and you've got to be a family or it won't work. Everybody has to do his job or it won't work."

Bradshaw loves to pull the trigger on Brown's triple option spread offense. "I always wanted to be a quarterback. In grammar school, people looked up to me. I looked at myself as a natural leader at quarterback. I'm a dual threat. I want to get the job done, no matter whatever it takes, even if I have to throw the ball with my left hand. I played with a broken rib in one game last year," he said.

Brooks' offense, which is averaging 37 points per game, features Bradshaw, 5-foot-7 160-pound senior wingback Cleveland Clark, 6-foot, 190-pound senior fullbacksafety Josh Smith, 6-foot, 300-pound junior center Lavalle Hughes and 6-foot, 285-pound senior guard Leon Harmon.

In Friday's victory over Austin, Clark carried 22 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns while Smith rushed 15 times for 155 yards and one touchdown. In 10 games, Clark has rushed for more than 1,450 yards and 14 touchdowns. Smith, Brooks' only two-way player, has offers from Illinois and Michigan State as a free safety.

In Brooks' 49-14 romp over Payton in the opening round of the playoff, Cleveland and Smith each rushed for over 100 yards. Bradshaw scored on a 60-yard run and Clark scored on a 95-yarder to give the Eagles an early 14-0 lead. Smith also scored on a 28-yard interception return and Jackson set up another touchdown with a 90-yard interception return.

Defensively, Smith is the leader. Other contributors are 6-foot-2, 240-pound senior middle linebacker Egypt Johnson, 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior end John McCain and 6-foot-1, 170-pound junior free safety Zeriam Jackson. The Eagles are allowing 14 points per game.

In his fifth year as head coach at Brooks, Brown has plenty of experience. At 43, this is his fourth head coaching job. He was an assistant to John Wrenn when Homewood-Flossmoor won the state title in 1994. He won 22 games in two years as head coach at Westinghouse and also was head coach at Corliss for two years before going to Brooks.

The way things are going at the South Side school, it won't take long for college recruiters to figure out who the real Admad Bradshaw is.

Carl Edwards Jr.'s special tie to Memorial Day

Carl Edwards Jr.'s special tie to Memorial Day

For Carl Edwards Jr., Memorial Day has a special meaning.

That's because the Cubs reliever has a very close tie to the armed services. 

Edwards met his fiance, Nette Smith, before her deployment in Afghanistan. Throughout her active service, Edwards kept in touch by writing her letters. Their relationship eventually blossomed, and now the couple has a one-year-old child. 

With Smith's army commitment finished, she views Memorial Day as a time to appreciate all those who serve. 

"To me, Memorial Day is a day set aside for me to remember some of the people I have met who sacrificed everything," Smith said. 

Watch the couple's entire story in the video above. 

Morning Update: White Sox power past Tigers; Dodgers sweep Cubs

Morning Update: White Sox power past Tigers; Dodgers sweep Cubs

Here are the top Chicago sports stories from Sunday:

Stranger than fiction: Dodgers sweep Cubs as Lester vs. Kershaw doesn’t live up to expectations

Miguel Gonzalez throws six perfect innings as White Sox take series against Tigers

Joe Maddon has no choice but to ignore the noise and put his faith in young Cubs lineup: ‘If you want to freak out, freak out’

Two days out, White Sox already excited about facing former teammate Chris Sale

Fire midfielder Dax McCarty named to U.S. national team roster

Jose Abreu relishing opportunity to help mentor Luis Robert, White Sox newest Cuban addition

How patient will Cubs be with Ian Happ and the rookie learning curve?

Takuma Sato holds off Helio Castroneves to give Andretti another Indy 500 win

Sky continue early season struggles in loss to Sun

Honda Road Ahead: Cubs offense looks to build off showing against Clayton Kershaw