Former Rough Bradley coaching, teaching football
As a player and a coach, Catasauqua’s Zach Bradley has seen his share of firsts out on the football field.
Recently in Scotland, he had another memorable one.
“That was the first time I saw a 52-year-old rookie on a football field,” mused Bradley. “Most of the players are anywhere from their 20s to early 30s.
“But you see some big guys. There was a 6-6, 290-pound lineman who could play over here in the NFL. It was funny to have a 30-year-old call me ‘coach.’”
Bradley recently returned from a shortened semester abroad in Scotland, a program of the Drexel University’s Kline School of Law.
He spent some time at the University of Aberdeen in the semester exchange program. He did spend two-and-a-half months in the country.
A current assistant offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Parkland, the former Roughies’ standout quarterback, who later played at Franklin and Marshall (F&M), also served in the same capacity for the Aberdeen Roughnecks, who have been part of the British American Football League (BAFA) for the past eight years.
Originally, Bradley envisioned being in his role for possible games when the season was scheduled to begin in April, but he was able to return home in early March before the Coronavirus outbreak.
He left for Scotland in January and camp began in early February. From the beginning, it proved to be an enlightening experience.
“It was a little different than the kind of camp that I am used to, and it was a lot of fun,” said Bradley. “Over there, it is about getting back to the true fundamentals of the game. Here, we can take a lot of things for granted and the kids are well aware of many things when they come into camp.
“Over there, you are working a lot with their techniques and follow through from the start as well as their football. It is a lot like working on the junior high level. They appreciate learning and reviewing the basics.
“This was good for me because it reminded me to never lose sight of everything in front of me.”
Roughnecks’ head coach Bryce Stevenson welcomed Bradley’s input. The team won the league’s NFC 2 Division in 2018.
“Coach Bradley came to Aberdeen and had an immediate impact from top to bottom in the organization,” said Stevenson. “Zach quickly ingrained into our culture and showed his value by improving the technique and fundamental knowledge of our quarterback room. He excellently contributed with everything ranging from schematics and hands on coaching with players.
“Zach is a fantastic young man who came in and despite his vast experience within the sports, came in and listened to how he could help.”
It didn’t take Bradley long to see that he could be a valued contributor.
“Most guys there don’t have a lot of experience,” he said. “Yet, there are some really good players and guys who could have played in college and came there. It is diverse. You have to keep reminding yourself that you are teaching the basics like what a first down is. It really is a good situation for coaching.”
Bradley noted the team held workouts evenings during the week and on weekends. Players have a regular profession during the week and moonlight as players. They receive a nominal salary.
“Some guys are driving a few hours to get to practice,” said Bradley about the site that is located along the North Sea. “One player I met was a lawyer, and another one was as well. These guys really love football and the camaraderie behind it.
“Aberdeen reminded me of the Lehigh Valley of Scotland. It is similar to the size of Allentown and it is the oil capital of Europe. Glasco is diverse like Philadelphia, and Edinburgh is the capital and reminds me of Pittsburgh.”
According to Stevenson, the game is on an accelerated pace with development and growth.
“Football in the UK is the fastest growing participation sport with varying levels of play,” said Stevenson. “The governing body BAFA has shown a great desire to get football into schools and develop an interest at a young age.
“I definitely believe the game will continue to grow over the next few years. The NFL has played a massive part in the growth. They (NFL) have built an academy, which allows young players at the elite level an opportunity to showcase their skills with the possibility of being recruited for major college programs.
“With an ever-growing participation level as well as UK colleges offering scholarships both domestically and internationally to play, football is something to be incredibly excited about here in the UK.”
Bradley is hoping to arrange to have his Scotland team spend a week during the season where they be at a Parkland game Friday night and then at Franklin and Marshall Saturday afternoon.
Whether or not he can arrange it, Bradley will have some football firsts across the pond to remember for a lifetime.
“Every coach should have the chance to do something like this,” stressed Bradley. “It was simply awesome.”