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Meet Tom Bradley, The New Nittany Lion Head Coach

Tom Bradley has been a part of the Penn State football program for 36 years. At most universities, that is unheard of, but at Penn State, it pales in comparison to someone who lasted for 61. Bradley has never particularly sought the spotlight, but today, the spotlight will seek him as he appears publicly for the first time, no longer having the title of defensive coordinator but rather interim head coach.

Most Penn State football fans will be familiar with Tom Bradley already, but here’s a quick rundown for anyone who would like to learn more leading up to his 11 a.m. press conference and first game running the show on Saturday:

  • Born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1956, 55 years of age.
  • Nicknamed “Scrap” for gritty playing style while at Penn State.
  • Played defensive back at Penn State from 1975-1978.
  • Graduate assistant during the 1979 season.
  • Assistant coach from 1980-1999.
  • Replaced Jerry Sandusky as defensive coordinator after the 1999 season.

That last one should really stick out. Jerry Sandusky was one thought to be Joe Paterno’s successor before his sudden retirement. Bradley took over his job as defensive coordinator and for many years has been thought to be a favorite to replace Joe Paterno; however, it was not suppossed to come full circle and happen like this.

Bradley replaces Sandusky, Sandusky brings down Paterno, Bradley for the time being replaces Paterno.

Since taking over as defensive coordinator, Bradley has earned national respect as one of the top assistant coaches in the country. He may get more respect around the country than some Nittany Lion fans give him. His soft, Cover-2 defensive scheme and lack of creative blitz packages have angered some fans in Happy Valley for a long time; however, Bradley’s defenses have overall been a model of consistency. From 2004 through 2009, his defenses finished Top 15 in the nation in scoring and total defense. After a down year in 2010, the unit has returned to prominence this year allowing only 12.4 points per game. Bradley is also recognized for being an outstanding recruiter.

There have been times when Bradley could have possibly taken a head coaching job elsewhere. As recently as last January, he was linked to openings at Temple, Pitt, and UConn. It even looked, for a night in early January, that he was going to get the Pitt job only to be passed up for Michael Haywood. Haywood is a story for another day, but just like years past amid rumors, Bradley ended up back at Penn State—right by Paterno’s side.

Many have praised Bradley for his loyalty and some say he has been loyal to a fault. Opportunity only knocks so many times and claims have been made that Bradley’s willingness to stay at Penn State for so long as an assistant indicates complacency.

It was not supposed to happen like this, but Tom Bradley has replaced Joe Paterno. He is the coach of Penn State football for the rest of the season. After the scandal that has crushed Penn State and brought down nearly an entire regime, it is difficult to imagine any of the coaching staff remaining for the 2012 season, but the rest of the season can be considered an audition for Bradley as Penn State attempts to win a Big Ten title. On Saturday afternoon, Bradley will job onto the Beaver Stadium turf with his signature hat and headset, but he will do it with a new job title.

The exact duration of it remains in question, but the Tom Bradley era is under way.

About the Author

Drew Balis

Drew is a senior marketing major. This fall, he will be covering Penn State Football for Onward State. He is a huge Philadelphia sports fan and loves THON and Domonic Brown.

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