MUSKEGON, Mich. — Before he knew he was bound for Baton Rouge, Tony Bradford’s journey started in the same place all Big Reds start: the weight room at Muskegon High.
The teams Bradford played on were among the best in the storied history of Muskegon football, and he's protected some of the most talented skill players in the last decade of Michigan high school football.
"Tony's played with Mr. Football runner-up with Kalil Pimpleton his sophomore year. Then he played with Mr. Football La'Darius Jefferson. Then he played for Mr. Football Cam Martinez," said Muskegon football head coach Shane Fairfield.
This year, Bradford had an even taller task in protecting Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Joe Burrow.
"He's a good luck charm or something," Fairfield said.
His mom LaToya is used to watching from the stands of historic Hackley Field. On Monday, Jan. 13 she was a little further from the field than she would’ve liked. But she and Tony both knew that when he chose LSU.
"We'll make it down to like two or three games a year. He's okay with that. He knows we're coming from out-of-state. That was a part of the decision when he chose where to go to school," LaToya said.
She watched the National Championship game with friends and family back home in Muskegon.
"I think it's amazing. Just the fact that he's in college is an amazing thing for me, and the fact that he's played at all this year, it was an amazing experience. He's enjoyed it," LaToya said.
Tony stands out for his skill and his size. He's 6-foot-7 and weighs 355 pounds. There’s only one other LSU player who weighs more than him. Tigers Coach Ed Orgeron told Fairfield that Tony’s one of the biggest players he’s ever seen. He figures to get more playing time as the Tigers chase more National Championships.
"There's some film where he hits guys and sends them two or three gaps over," Fairfield said. "It's just like that's not supposed to be possible, and I don't think LSU has even seen the true side of him until he becomes a full time starter."
Despite his intimidating stature, one of his most impressive characteristics is his personality.
"He's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet," Fairfield said.
His mom agrees.
"My son is an amazing boy. He's a kind soul. What you see is what you get with him. I know he's big, but he's a gentle giant."
No. 1 LSU unseated No. 3 Clemson in the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship 42-25.
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