Monday, December 11, 2017
Sports

How a Plant football player scored a scholarship without game film or playing time

TAMPA — Nine Plant High players were at One Buccaneer Place for an elaborate signing day ceremony Wednesday. They each went up to a podium to talk about what it means to be able to play in college.

For Malik Bradshaw, signing his letter of intent to play at Iowa Central Community College means three meals a day — and a stable residence.

"It truly is a blessing," he said.

In the past two years, the 5-foot-9, 160-pound wide receiver/defensive back had a vagabond life. His father has been in jail for nearly four years. His mother tried to support five children on her own.

She wound up in jail last year, too.

That left the children to survive on their own. They bounced from place to place, sleeping on a coach, a floor — wherever they could find space. Bradshaw's older brother Scoop made it out. He signed last year with Syracuse.

Malik Bradshaw hoped for similar results. Football was supposed to be his sanctuary.

That also was taken away.

Bradshaw's grades suffered to the point where he was academically ineligible his senior season. Bradshaw watched from the sidelines as the Panthers went on a magical run, going undefeated in the regular season and reaching the Class 7A state championship game.

Despite his academic struggles, Plant coach Robert Weiner did not cast Bradshaw aside. Weiner continued to let him practice with the team.

Bradshaw is smart, as evidenced by his 1060 SAT score. But his grades suffered because of other distractions in his life.

"Malik got into some tough times and he had to prioritize things in his life," Weiner said. "When you're just trying to survive and make it from day to day, grades become a secondary thing. We can stand outside and be judgmental and say grades are the most important thing. Sometimes just living and surviving is more important."

Bradshaw, 18, was a solid practice player, even outperforming some of the veteran players on the team. But he never had true playing time on varsity. That meant he had no film to send to college coaches.

Months passed with no offers. Two weeks ago, Weiner was getting enough interest from the coaching staff at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge, Iowa. There was no film to offer. No matter. The school offered based on Weiner's recommendation.

"I've known Coach Weiner for a while, and I put a lot of value in his opinion and what he has to say," said Iowa Central coach Kevin Twait, who has been with the program for 19 years. "Coach spoke very highly of Mailk. He went through a tough situation but kept showing up. It touches the heart.

"We're taking a leap of faith. But good things happen to good people, and we're going to see if we can make this a win-win situation."

Said Weiner, "Malik was dealt a tough blow, and he realized he wasn't going to be able to play. He had a choice to make whether he was going to be a part of something special that was going to add to his life or he was just going to let that go.

"A lot of us make decisions later in life that put us in this direction or that direction. Sometimes when you're 17, 18 years old, it's your time to make those decisions. He made a decision to take a different road, one that is going to put him on a path to success where he'll not only be a productive citizen but a productive husband and father and someone who contributes to all those around him in a positive way."

In all, Plant had 10 signees. Linebacker Thomas Allen, the Tampa Bay Times All-Hillsborough County defensive player of the year, enrolled early at Indiana but spoke to his teammates via cell phone.

The other signees in attendance were Davis Bak (Brown), Juwan Burgess (Indiana), Bryce Jenkins (Wesleyan), Aaron King (Valparaiso), Whop Philyor (Indiana), Jamil Thomas (Ferris State), Kyle Trina (preferred walk-on at USF) and Christian Watson (North Dakota State).

There will be more, including quarterback Dane Frantzen.

None of them was as happy as Bradshaw to find a home.

"You go through the opportunity to coach someone like Malik and get to this day and you look and say this is the reason why I chose to be a coach," Weiner said, "There was enough persistence on his part and perseverance that anything can happen."

Comments
Explosives? On 40-yard plays, Bucs among NFL’s worst

Explosives? On 40-yard plays, Bucs among NFL’s worst

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter has key statistics that he puts great value in, finding a close correlation between success in those areas and success on the scoreboard. Winning the takeaway battle is always first among those priorities, but he and his staff...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Lions-Buccaneers Turning Point, Week 14: A coach's future hangs in the balance

Lions-Buccaneers Turning Point, Week 14: A coach's future hangs in the balance

TAMPA — The season started in August with “Hard Knocks,” packed bleachers at training camp and cheers for coach Dirk Koetter.It ended Sunday with a 24-21 loss to the Lions, a lot of empty seats and chants of “We want Gruden ba...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Tampa Bay Rays make a small deal, acquire INF Joey Wendle

While continuing discussions on bigger topics, the Rays made a small deal Monday, acquiring INF Joey Wendle from the A's for a player to be named later or cash.Wendle, 27, spent part of the last two seasons in the majors, hitting .266 over 36 games. ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 1

Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 1

UPDATE, 6:14: The Rays continued talks with no major moves seemingly close, but did make a small deal, acquiring INF Joey Wendle from the A's. Wendle, 27, has spent parts of the last two seasons in the majors, hitting .266 in 36 games. He is a lefty ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
hed

hed

AROUND THE LEAGUE: Magic forward Aaron Gordon said he’s free of concussion symptoms and hopes to complete the NBA’s concussion protocol in time to play Wednesday night against the Clippers. … Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard is expected to make his season...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Isles back up confidence of coach with win over Caps

Isles back up confidence of coach with win over Caps

NEW YORK — Jaroslav Halak made 31 saves after getting a vote of confidence from his coach, and the Islanders beat the Capitals 3-1 on Monday night to snap a five-game winless streak. Brock Nelson, Andrew Ladd and John Tavares scored goals for the Isl...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Winter meetings journal: Rays closer Alex Colome drawing interest

Winter meetings journal: Rays closer Alex Colome drawing interest

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Rays made a small deal Monday in acquiring INF Joey Wendle from Oakland while continuing to discuss bigger ones that seem likely to eventually lead to the trade of closer Alex Colome and then others.The Rockies and Mets joined ...
Updated: 13 minutes ago

MAKING NEWSGRUDEN VS. DUNGY: THE CHOICE IS YOURSFifteen years later, Tampa Bay’s Great Sports Debate continues: Who deserves more credit for the Bucs’ Super Bowl victory, Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy? With the Bucs set to induct Gruden into the Ring of H...
Updated: 1 hour ago
HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Emily Joseph and Devin Cosser

HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Emily Joseph and Devin Cosser

HomeTeam Hot ShotsEmily Joseph, NortheastJoseph, a senior, has been a deadly shooter since her sophomore year. But this season she has added to her game. "She’s gotten physically stronger and has gained confidence," coach Will White said. "She used t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Florida A&M names Willie Simmons football coach

Florida A&M names Willie Simmons football coach

TALLAHASSEE — Willie Simmons was named football coach at Florida A&M on Monday. The Tallahassee native will be introduced today. Simmons, 37, has been the coach at Prairie View A&M the past three seasons (21-11, including 6-5 this season). He played ...
Updated: 1 hour ago