|One of my favorite Sports Illustrated covers:|
The No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, 1970
Uh, I think I disagreed with him.
Andy -- let's call him Andy -- based his view on (1) Bradshaw's statistics didn't measure up to some of the game's greats and (2) Bradshaw played on great teams that made him look better than he was.
OK, fine. Yes, Terry's passing accuracy wasn't always sharp. Yes, the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s were tremendous in almost every way.
And there is no way -- as our 3-year-old grandson Jacob often says -- no way, the Steelers would have won those four Super Bowls (and lost none) without Terry Bradshaw at quarterback.
It's no accident Terry was the first Super Bowl QB in history with a 4-0 record. Maybe he was just one of the guys in the Steelers' first Super Bowl win in the 1974 season. But somebody threw those long passes Lynn Swann caught in the next Super Bowl, and Terry was the game MVP in the last two Super Bowls he played in.
Here's how I feel about him: He's the best athlete I ever covered.
Plus, he was one of the most fun guys to be around -- from junior high through high school and college. He was always outgoing and upbeat, loose and kind of crazy funny. And not malicious at all.
Those of us in school with him -- at Oak Terrace, Woodlawn and Louisiana Tech -- could always see the potential. In my case, I was a year ahead of him, but it didn't take long to see that the tall, thin guy with the snow-white flattop could throw a football harder than anyone else. Much harder. Even harder than our starting quarterback, Trey Prather -- and Trey could throw it.
I found out real quick not to try to catch balls from Terry in warmups. He didn't ease up, even for 5-foor-2, 115-pound team managers.
For nine years, it was my great fortune -- mine, and many more people in Shreveport and North Louisiana -- to watch Terry Bradshaw play football.
And there was this: The perception, the kids' perception, was that Terry wasn't very bright. That would follow him for a long, long time ... into college, into the NFL. (We know now how very wrong that was.)
But, oh, that potential. We saw it first-hand in his junior year, in a varsity game against West Monroe at (then) State Fair Stadium. I can see the pass now, sailing high and arched perfectly 60 yards in the air, right in Tom Hagin's hands on the right sideline headed north (toward Fair Park High, for those who remember the stadium setup). Touchdown.
We went from 1-9 and 3-7 in his first two years to 9-2 with him as the starter as a junior. And if you think the "Immaculate Reception" to Franco Harris with the Steelers was a great play, think again. It was a lucky play, a lucky bounce. The greatest play of Bradshaw's career was the 82-yard pass to Ken Liberto -- one of my best friends for all those years in school -- in the last minute of the 1968 State Fair Game with Northwestern State, turning a sure 39-35 loss into a glorious, forever-remembered 42-39 victory.
He went into television full-time, as an NFL (and sometimes college football analyst). He became a pitchman for all sorts of products, a sought-after speaker ... he became what he'd always sort of been, an entertainer.
I haven't seen or talked to Terry in 25 years. We're not close; we never were. He doesn't do Woodlawn reunions, and I can understand why. I don't even know where he lives; I think it's in the Phoenix area. He used to be in Westlake, near Fort Worth, and I know he had places in Oklahoma and a long time ago the ranch in Grand Cane (near Shreveport).