Delian Bradley remembers his first elementary report card with letter grades.
All A’s. And it’s been all A’s ever since.
“Since the first time I ever touched a grade card, school’s been important to me,” Bradley said Wednesday after signing a national letter of intent to attend Harvard University and play football.
As inspired as Bradley felt by the letter A, the people in his life have inspired him even more to be one of the best student-athletes to walk the halls of Springfield High School. He will carry a 4.33 GPA into the second half of his senior year with hopes of being class valedictorian.
Bradley’s desire to succeed in school began at home.
“He knew what the bar was at home and what the standards are that we have,” said his mother, Elaina Bradley. “One of our family quotes is we go to school to learn. And we’ve instilled that in the kids since they were younger.
“He was always determined. He has a great motivation and he’s always been like that since he was a little guy.”
Bradley’s football success as a first-team, all-state safety for the Division I state runner-up meant he had plenty of college options. He could have played at Cincinnati or in the Big Ten at Michigan State. He could have gone where it’s warm and played at Arizona State. He could have chosen the military and gone to Army or Air Force.
But the most intriguing group of the 31 schools that wanted him were the Ivy League offers from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Penn, Brown and Columbia.
“It means a whole lot, especially to Harvard,” said his father, Duncan Bradley. “A little guy from Springfield? That’s big … that’s big. We’re really thankful, and he’s worked very hard to get here.”
After making his announcement in the high school library in front of over 100 people, many of them had their picture taken with Bradley. At the end, it was time for Elaina to hand off her phone to someone and for mom and dad to stand with their arms around their son. No one had to tell them to smile.
“My parents inspired me the most,” Bradley said. “Just the sacrifices that I see that they make. We have a huge family and they do so much for other people as much as they do for our family. It just makes me want to do great things.”
Teachers, of course, have also inspired Bradley to learn. Stephanie Scholl has taught high school science since the day the building opened 13 years ago. Bradley was in her Principles of Biomedical Sciences class last year. She remembers that during his freshman year he said he wanted to go to Harvard.
“To come from Springfield and go to Harvard University I could not be more proud,” Scholl said. “There’s always football, but he always can say that he went to Harvard.”
Bradley is known for his leadership on the Wildcats’ defense as a four-year starter, but Scholl saw him lead in the classroom last year. He noticed that a 10th-grader, Dave Oreus, spoke little English. All he really knew was Creole.
Bradley made friends with Oreus and got him to join the track team in the spring and the football team this past fall. Oreus now speaks fluent English.
“To watch Delian play that facilitator and be a translator and make such a difference in the player’s life was so incredible,” Scholl said. “He is truly that kid who is so well-rounded, and he has so many strengths in classroom.”
For Bradley, the decision to help Oreus was natural.
“I know that all kids are not outgoing, and I feel like anybody can do anything they want,” he said. “So if you reach out to people, you get them started, you never know where their life can take them.”
When Bradley started high school football, he experienced something similar when he was introduced to Derrick Atterbury, his position coach. Atterbury had gone from Patterson High School in Dayton to play football and be educated at Vanderbilt.
“Our relationship is strong,” Bradley said. “He doesn’t only teach me about football. We have a lot of life lesson talks on the phone and at practice.”
Atterbury took school seriously because of the encouragement he got in junior high and high school. He has been doing the same for the football players he has coached for the past 21 years alongside head coach Maurice Douglass at Trotwood-Madison and now Springfield.
“This is about empowering the kids,” he said. “You coach to win games, but we want to coach kids to show them how to use football as a vehicle to get an education. I just want to thank Delian for buying into the program and buying into the Wildcat ways. And being an example of a student-athlete because that’s the mission.”
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