Bradford eager for "next chapter"

Bradford eager for "next chapter"

The student part of student-athlete is one that evokes a lot of cynicism in today's college sports world. Yet, for many young men, earning a bachelor's degree is just as much of an accomplishment as earning all-conference honors. Carl Bradford achieved both in 2013, but it was his educational feat that in large drove him to forgo his senior season at ASU and enter the NFL draft.

Carl Bradford, a second-team All-Pac-12 selection, had a team-high 19 tackles for loss (61 total tackles) and 8.5 quarterback sacks this past season. He flourished as Arizona State's Devil backer, a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end, under head coach Todd Graham and defensive coordinator Paul Randolph.

Bradford, who signed with NFL agents Dave Dunn & Justin Schulman, admitted that the decision to embark on his professional career was not an easy resolution.

"It was hard at first because I was trying to play with the options," Bradford said. "But at the end I leaned towards coming out because I did graduate and that was my main thing from the beginning. That it was what made me come out, that I graduated and I wouldn't have to return and graduate.

"It was pretty hard because I could've come back and played for a championship but I talked it over with my family and prayed on it and I felt like I matured as a person, for me it felt like it was the next chapter in life."

Bradford's success this past season should come as no surprise, since he was also a defensive leader in 2012 posting 81 tackles, 20.5 of them for loss, as well as five passes defended, three forced fumbles and two recovered fumbles.

Bradford said that despite his success in 2012, he really didn't know coming into 2013 if he could elevate his play to a level where he would even entertain the possibility of a professional career following his junior campaign.

"It was kind of hard to see last season (in 2012)," Bradford admitted. "I still wasn't sure if I was there mentally but soon after the (2013) season progressed I started understanding it more and I thought I could do it at a higher level. It progressed throughout the whole season and I felt like as a player I was able to understand the game more and I thought it was the right choice.

"I think in 2013, one thing that allowed me to get better was my run responsibilities and my ability to play the route better. I think it allowed me to learn how to play when I'm being double teamed a little bit more and play against tight ends. Just develop my craft even more."

When asked what would rank as the biggest moment of his junior season, Bradford said without hesitation that it was his interception retuned for a touchdown versus UCLA, a play that was instrumental in a contest that clinched the Pac-12 South for the Sun Devils.

That play also signified the high level that the Sun Devils were playing at during the team's seven-game winning streak. It was a stretch of contests that Bradford feels the entire squad truly preformed to its potential.

"I think you get that boost of confidence for yourself," Bradford explained, "and we just understood that we were a great team and we stepped out there and kept playing. People may not feel like that but we were the best around and we played like that. I think our guys understood that and we kept it rolling."

The seven-game winning streak was halted in the Pac-12 championship game at home versus Stanford. Even though it was a contest that many believed ASU could win, the loss wasn't considered as big of an upset, as the game that followed in the 37-23 Holiday Bowl loss to Texas Tech.

"It caught me by surprise," Bradford said of the last game in 2013. "I thought we had a good game plan going in and our guys were ready to play. I really don't know what happened, it's like everybody just crumbled.

"That game didn't affect my decision. It was just basically that when I graduated I had some time with my friends and family and stated the pros and cons of staying or leaving."

Naturally, the draft evaluation he received in December from the NFL scouts was quite instrumental in his decision to turn pro.

"I got a pretty high grade," Bradford said. "and where I wanted to be, which put me in an even better situation and made it easier to choose. I think it was pretty much what I expected."

When asked if that grade was a 2nd or 3rd round, he replied: "Yes, around there." He added that he still has discussions with his family and friends even after the favorable draft grade came in and he did consult former ASU players in the NFL such as Omar Bolden and Vontaze Burfict before making his decision.

In the next week or so Bradford is expecting to be one the players to receive an invite to the NFL combine which will be held February 18-25. He is expected to also participate at ASU's Pro Day on March 7th. Bradford is back home at Southern California and will continue and work out there until the May 8-10 NFL Draft.

"I'm just training and getting my body right and just perfecting my weaknesses," Bradford said. "Just staying on my drills and just getting ready for the combine. I have a lot to get through with all that. I just try to take my skills and keep the hard work ethic up and get better and better."

While his decision to enter the NFL Draft was made easier due to both his draft grade and earning a degree, leaving a school such as Arizona State was anything but simple.

"Honestly, it was a wonderful school and I wouldn't change anything," Bradford stated. "I liked ASU since I stepped onto campus, day one and I just ran with it. Especially with Coach Graham who ran the defense, I know we (ASU) struggled with that in the past but with the addition of some players we got better. He's hard to play for and he's a great listener, he does all that. Everything we had to do he had it, schematically and everything. It's a great defensive system to develop in and just understand everything in football, just mentally and schematically."

Becca Winn assisted with this article

How will Bradford's departure impact the 2014 ASU defense? Enter Sparky's Huddle to discuss that topic and other ASU football news

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