|Photo: NC State|
New Vikings center Garrett Bradbury never wanted to come off the field, but his former head coach noticed how this competitive fire applied to every area of his life. It's what helped Bradbury become one of the nation's top centers.
NC State center Garrett Bradbury never wants to come off the field. In high school, Bradbury played on both sides of the ball and didn’t have time to take any shortcuts. When he strapped on the pads, it was time to be on the field.
A three-star recruit at tight end, Bradbury blossomed from 240 to 285 pounds in his first year of college. It’s when NC State head coach Dave Doeren knew Bradbury needed to make a position switch. After his freshman year, the staff moved him to the defensive line, before he quickly made yet another shift.
“He was a pretty good defensive lineman and we just had depth issues on the o-line and we felt like he could be a three-year starter there versus rotational player on the D-Line,” Doeren said on Friday. “He played his entire sophomore season at guard – he’ll tell you he didn’t think he was very good. He was a lot better in year two than he was in year one at the position.”
During his sophomore season, Bradbury started 13 games at left guard, before shuffling to center for his final two years with the Wolfpack. After the move to center, Doeren noticed the young offensive lineman turning a corner both fundamentally and as a leader.
“When we moved him into center, that spring, he was really coming on,” Doeren said. “You could tell at that point as long as he stays healthy, he’d have a real shot….we knew he’d be one of the better centers at our level anyways.”
The converted tight end and defensive lineman quickly used his football intelligence and athleticism to transform into one of the nation’s best centers. By the time he was a senior, Bradbury earned the Rimington Trophy, an honor given to the top center in college football. To find this type of success, Bradbury focused on improving not only technically, but as a communicator and leader.
“I felt really comfortable from a communication standpoint,” Bradbury said during his introductory press conference. “I really knew the offense well and guys I played next to trusted me with that responsibility. All five of us played really well together.”
The ability to lead, direct traffic and process the game is something his head coach noticed, too. Bradbury wasn’t phased by the pace and spent time in the film room mastering details and intricacies of his position. The center’s preparation skills allowed him to understand opponent tendencies. Doeren said Bradbury has future aspirations to become a coach because of his love for the game.
“The game is not fast to him. He’s got a lot of poise, he sees things, he doesn’t overreact, he can anticipate, he loves to study the game, so he’s going to know what to do well before it happens in a lot of cases,” Doeren said. “When some kids watch film, they are watching it to play well. Garrett is watching it to play well, but he’s also watching it just because he’s fascinated by the X’s and O’s. I mean he loves that and so you’re getting a guy that really has a lot of pride in detail and his work that way.”
Bradbury then took all of the tendencies to the field and flashed his natural skills. He used his athleticism to push into the second level, reach three-techniques and execute many responsibilities normal centers simply cannot accomplish. Bradbury shattered the combine and finished in the top-three of most categories, including the 40-yard dash. The NC State center’s strong film and athletic testing caused him to rise quickly up many draft boards.
“He’s very athletic as you guys saw at the combine. Having a guy that’s 300 pounds that can power clean the gym like he can. He’s got gigantic hands and he’s smart and so that’s an elite athlete on the line of scrimmage,” Doeren said. “You don’t usually find offensive linemen that can run sub-4.5s in the 40. He can reach a three-technique and reach a 2i and just do some things that are really hard for a center to do.”
Bradbury’s short shuttle time displayed all of quickness and aligned well with the wide-zone concepts NC State ran. Those principles will serve him well as he transitions to Minnesota’s zone-blocking scheme in the NFL. Bradbury spent plenty of time with offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford, a former eight-year NFL center. Ledford played for five different professional teams, including the 49ers and Jaguars. His coaching helped Bradbury transform into one of the best centers in college football.
“We do a lot of work with technique and our strength staff does a phenomenal job in terms of strength and speed,” Bradbury said. “[Ledford] taught me so much about what I needed to do preparation wise on and off the field. He knows the game better than a lot of people out there. I think we were the best at wide-zone in my opinion because of him because of how he coached it, how he coached us to protect the quarterback.”
Bradbury takes everything he learned to the field, while pairing it with his passion and love for the game. He doesn’t want to leave the field or rotate because being on the field and competing is in his blood. It's the purpose of being an offenisve lineman.
“I feel like I’m a competitor, I’m a football player. I love to play the game. I think you see that when you watch the film. I found a home at offensive line. I love everything about the position. Playing next to other guys, trusting them, just being a competitor really,” Bradbury said. “I don’t want to come off the field, I love to play football and wherever that is on the offensive line, I don’t care. I just know that we don’t rotate, it’s something we pride ourselves on. I think it’s more of a comfort at that position.”
Outside of his toughness, competitive fire and football intelligence, Bradbury’s leadership and personality have rubbed off on his past teammates and coaches. It’s something that has helped him become a well-rounded prospect in all areas of his life.
“He is a great human being, he’s fun to hang out with, he cares about people and he treats people with respect,” Doeren said. “If any of you have children, you would want your children to be like him. He’s as classy a person as you’re going to be around, but as competitive as one at the same time.”