For Bradley and Rudisill, new challenges have brought about renewed life
March 5, 2013
M&M's - the chocolate candy morsels, that is - have been around since 1941. That's a pretty long time.
Rudisill, the men's golf coach, is in his 38th spring in that capacity.
Bradley, the senior member of the athletic training staff and the head trainer for the football team, is in his 38th year of taping ankles and telling athletes "you have a strained patellar tendon. It's going to need some rest."
These two, however, never seem to rest and neither is talking about stopping anytime soon. Part of the reason for that is that both have new challenges upon them. And both like a challenge.
For Bradley, it's the football. When he came to ODU, there were no Monarchs on the gridiron. Bradley was with the athletic program in the 1980s, when there was talk of a football team emerging from the ashes, but then the talk subsided and he and his wife Johanna had a young family and the prospects of switching schols just for football, well, that was a pipe dream.
But when football became reality at ODU with the 2006 announcement that a program would be started, it was Bradley's wife who urged him to go for it.
"Johanna told me now that the kids were grown and I had more time I should go for it," Bradley said. "I couldn't have imagined doing this when I was younger and the kids were growing up. Football is so incredibly time consuming. But the timing really was right for me to do this." So Bradley dived right in with the new football program.
Now 63, he says that being a part of this football program is "Keeping me young."
It's a seven-days-a-week job when in season, but it's nothing Bradley hadn't done before. In fact, before coming to ODU, he had been the head trainer for Class A baseball teams in the New York Mets' organization, spending back-to-back long, hot Florida summers in Pompano Beach and Anderson. Back then, Bradley had the option of doing everything in the clubhouse - and that even meant shining shoes - or farming out tasks and paying others. Bradley elected to shine shoes.
Still, as Bradley put it, "football is a monster."
"But it's also a lot of fun," Bradley said. "Before the football team came along, I really didn't have a team. I was just essentially in charge of covering home events. I've been energized by this. It's the sport I never had. With 30 years under my belt I could retire with a full pension. But now that I've got football I can see myself doing this for a good while longer."
Rudisill actually did retire. He just didn't retire from the golf aspect of the job. Like Bradley, Rudisill doesn't expect to hang it up anytime soon, even though he turned 75 last Friday. He's a March 1 baby who has proven to come in like a lamb and plans to exit a lion. Or at least like a Monarch.
Rudisill started at ODU as a professor in the education department. A couple of years into that gig, ODU athletic director Dr. Jim Jarrett asked if he'd like to coach the golf team.
"We were Division II back then," Rudisill said. "Pete Robinson was coaching both the wrestling team and the golf team and decided he wanted to concentrate on wrestling. Dr. Jarrett knew I was an avid golfer and asked if I was interested in the job."
Jarrett cut a deal with Rudisill's department head: Rudisill would be responsible for just 75 percent of his typical work load and he'd receive an $800 stipend to coach golf. "Back then, there wasn't much to the season," Rudisill said. "We played in a couple of tournaments and finished with the state collegiate championships in Hot Springs, Va."
Both of Rudisill's jobs grew. He eventually became a full tenured professor in charge of the masters degree program at ODU. Meanwhile, he was also growing a powerhouse golf program as ODU went from a Division II non-scholarship squad to a Division I contender for NCAA Tournament bids and a regular contender for conference titles, be they Sun Belt or Colonial Athletic Association.
He gave up the teaching in 2001 after spending the last six of those years as a department head. But like Bradley, Rudisill saw a carrot on a stick that would keep him around for a little while longer in the athletic department: ODU was in the process of building a nine-hole golf course of its own along the property that butts against the Elizabeth River.
Lambert's Point was a course and a complex ODU could call its own after years of having to always travel elsewhere to practice.
"ODU decided it wanted to build a course so I decided I wanted to stay for a while, so I'm now working on my 38th consecutive one-year contract as golf coach," Rudisill said, laughing at the fact that he's never had a multi-year deal and adding, "I'm getting old but I still feel young. The good Lord has blessed me to let me do this for this long."
In 38 years, Rudisill has missed traveling with the team three times. Last year when he missed making a trip, it was because he was undergoing a hip replacement procedure. The previous missed trip was 25 years ago. Along the way, Rudisill has picked up coach of the year honors in either the state or in conference in eight different seasons.
He's a trooper, looking excitedly toward ODU's first endeavor as a Conference USA member when his golf team travels to Texarkana, Ark., to contend in the Conference USA Tournament April 21-23.
Just in case you think these two greybeards don't have games of their own, here's your fair warning: They do.
Rudisill played golf at N.C. State and over the years he and former ODU standout J.P. Leigh have teamed together to win over 50 two-man tournaments.
As for Bradley, those football players he tends to might want to give him their own tip of the hat, for Bradley played basketball at Southern Illinois. Knowing Bradley is from Connecticut, it begged the question: Why Southern Illinois?
As it turns out, Bradley became mesmerized by a college basketball player there named Walt Frazier, who would go on to lead the New York Knicks to an NBA title. He figured if Southern Illinois was good enough for Walter "Clyde" Frazier, it was good enough for him too.
So don't challenge Marty to a game of H-O-R-S-E unless you can shoot it.
And don't challenge Murray to a $2 Nassau unless you have some tee-to-green in you.
They might both surprise you.
And don't be surprised if they are around the ODU camp for a good while longer. At this point, what's another couple years?