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Gaithersburg Alum Embraces 'Chance of a Lifetime'

Brian Bradford will be playing in the Italian Football League.

Grazie.

This is one of the few words in Italian that Brian Bradford knows. He'll quickly need to learn some more.

Bradford, a product of Gaithersburg High School before going on to star as an All-American linebacker at Towson University, has signed on with the Milano Rhinos of the Italian Football League. He leaves for Italy and his new life today. 

"I've always wanted to go to Italy anyway," said Bradford, a member of Gaithersburg High School's 2000 state championship team. "It's going to be a learning experience and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I'm really looking forward to it. It's the chance of a lifetime."

His journey to Italy actually came as a bit of a surprise to Bradford himself. Less than two weeks ago, Bradford was in Milwaukee, getting ready to begin his career in the Arena Football League as part of the Milwaukee Mustangs. 

But the first day of practice, the 6-foot-2, 245-lb Bradford had a feeling it might not be the best fit. According to Bradford, the indoor arena game wasn't conducive to his style of play.  The types of defensive schemes that most teams employ don't jive with Bradford's measurements and most AFL linebackers are either small and quick or the size of a typical defensive lineman. Bradford is somewhere in the middle. Still, he gave it a shot and hoped for the best.

"It's really hard for someone like me to get an opportunity in the AFL," Bradford said. "Every time I've had a workout, teams have told me they'd love to have me, but unfortunately the type of linebacker I am doesn't really fit with the team. And that was my concern when I got to Milwaukee."

His concerns were valid. Upon arriving in Milwaukee, it was apparent to Bradford that his time there would be limited.  So, he made the tough decision to head home after just a couple days. He knew though, he wasn't done with football just yet.

Before arriving back in Maryland, Bradford was made aware through some of his football contacts about the opportunity in Italy. He jumped at the chance, especially if it meant returning to the outdoor football game that he loves so much for the first time in more than three years. The season gets underway at the end of the month.

In college, Bradford was among the most dominant defensive players in all of Division I-AA and he led the Colonial Athletic Association in tackles his senior year with 149 and finished his career as Towson's third all-time leading tackler.

Since graduating from Towson in 2008, Bradford has remained active in the game of football.  In addition to helping out on the Gaithersburg coaching staff the last two seasons, last year, Bradford was playing for the now-defunct Baltimore Mariners of the Arena Indoor Football Association. Baltimore won the league championship—a feat Bradford calls among the biggest highlights of his playing career. But he's always yearned to get back to the outdoor game that he has played his whole life. His dream is still to play in the National Football League.

Towson University coach Rob Ambrose, who was the Offensive Coordinator at the University of Connecticut and recruited Bradford to play for the Huskies and ultimately helped him get into Towson, says that Bradford has all the physical attributes of a great football player, but it's the mental side of the game that separates him from others. 

"He's very football savvy," Ambrose said. "His intensity and love for the game are just contagious. He makes the people around him better. He's a true student of the game. He brings out the best in football and football brings out the best in him."

When asked about Bradford's chances to make it to that next level, Ambrose simply said: "With Brian, I would never count anything out."

Regardless of what the future holds for him, Bradford is remaining open-minded.

"If it's not meant to be, it's not meant to be. I just want to get an honest workout with a team," Bradford said. "I just want one team to look me in the eye and tell me I'm not good enough to play. If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. I just want a shot."

rob March 12, 2011 at 05:47 PM
Anyone interested in this story should read the John Grisham book Playing for Pizza, about an American playing in this Italian league!!

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