By Craig Beilfuss
MUSKEGON–Former Muskegon Big Reds football standout Anthony Bradford celebrated his 22nd birthday a day late on Saturday when the Seattle Seahawks selected the hulking offensive lineman in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
On Saturday afternoon, Bradford was chosen, but only after a sleepless night on Friday.
“I didn’t get much sleep last night until about 2 a.m.,” said Bradford. “But it was all worth it. Yesterday was yesterday and today is today.”
Finally, early Saturday afternoon the former LSU lineman got a call from his agent indicating that the last NFL team that Bradford had visited this spring, the Seattle Seahawks, would choose the 6-4, 332-pounder with the 108th overall pick. The modest crowd, consisting of mostly family members, celebrated, hugged and shed many tears as Bradford, his mother and sisters continue on this journey along with him.
“My emotions have really sky-rocketed,” said Bradford, shortly after his draft selection. “Going from Muskegon to LSU to the NFL is something that I cannot explain. This is amazing. It just goes to show you that if you stayed determined and are willing to put in the hard work it can be done.
“It’s been a long road,” he said. “My mom has been with me the entire time of my life. She has made me the man that I am today. Our relationship is very tight and I have nothing, but love for my mom.”
Bradford also credited the Muskegon football staff for their guidance.
“Coach Fairfield, Coach Bolles, Coach Tracy Lewis and Coach Don Poole treated me like their second son and so I am really thankful for those guys in my life,” he said.
Bradford, a 2019 Muskegon graduate, saw his stock rise during the last full week of visits this spring to Minnesota, Tennessee, Kansas City, Carolina and Seattle.
During his last visit in Seattle, Bradford had the chance to sit down and talk with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and the position coaches.
“That visit went very well,” said Bradford. “I was open and honest with them and they told me where they felt I needed to improve my skills.”
Last fall, Bradford’s name wasn’t even mentioned when the 2022 All-SEC football teams were announced. Shortly after LSU crushed Purdue in the Citrus Bowl, Bradford announced that he would forego his senior season and enter the NFL draft.
Saturday afternoon following his selection, Bradfords’ mother was quick to praise and thank Fairfield and his coaching staff for their role in raising up Bradford on the football field.
“This has been an amazing journey that my son has been on,” said Latoya Bradford. “He has talked about this for years from middle school on. He is a trooper. I call him my ‘quiet storm.’ This is so surreal right now. I am excited for my son. God is amazing and God is so good. I love Muskegon and all of the coaches. I enjoy my camaraderie with Anthony as he is the only boy in the family, and I have two daughters.
“And the Muskegon coaches who have surrounded Tony over the years,” she said. “Coach Fairfield, Coach Bolles made Anthony what he is today. It’s not me, it’s the male influences on the coaching staffs at Muskegon and LSU and it’s a beautiful thing to see.
“Anthony made my life as a parent easy,” she said. “I never had to get after him except for ‘boy thing,’ like falling out of a tree or getting on the roof,” said his mother. “God has surrounded Anthony, myself and his two sisters over our lifetime. God will make Anthony part of his plan and he will go out and execute that plan.
“This is so exciting as a parent. I can’t wait to go and watch my son play, yell and scream and cheer him on and get my jersey!”
“Anthony was always a soft-spoken giant on the football field,” said Fairfield after the selection.
“He was always the quiet jokester,” he said. “He was always serious about his business and focus driven. He is the example of what Big Reds football is all about. As a coach, this is very surreal to think about as a coach (Anthony going in the fourth round of the NFL draft). To be a coach and see guys being drafted is exciting and a humbling experience. It is priceless just to dream about it. This makes coaching worth it.”
Bradford and his agents will be going to work on a contract in the upcoming days and the former Big Red said he will be headed to Seattle fairly quickly to participate in team drills during the upcoming weeks ahead.
So where does Bradford’s mother going to camp out?
“Once I get all settle in out there, we’ll get that figured out,” Bradford said. “Mom can stay or live wherever she wants.”