Full circle: Bradby returns to where it all started

Just for kicks: Mike Bradby is the second boys soc­cer coach in Ry­an his­tory. Bradby starred on the Raid­er soc­cer field from 1983-86. BRAD LAR­RIS­ON / FOR THE TIMES

— In 1985, Mike Bradby knew he wanted to coach Arch­bish­op Ry­an soc­cer. Now, he’s got his chance.

Mike Bradby vividly re­mem­bers the day dur­ing the 1985 Arch­bish­op Ry­an soc­cer sea­son when he went in­to George Todt’s of­fice and told his coach that he wanted his job someday.

Al­most 30 years later, Bradby got his wish.

It’s been a little more than a month since Todt re­tired as the long­time coach of the Raid­er soc­cer pro­gram. When he stepped down after 44 years, 650 wins and 13 Cath­ol­ic League cham­pi­on­ships, the odd real­iz­a­tion began to set in that some­time dur­ing the fall of 2013, a coach oth­er than George Todt would be call­ing the shots.

“I think we were sixth in the coun­try at the time, and I just said to him (Todt), ‘I want your job, be­cause it’s a dream job,’” Bradby re­called dur­ing a Sat­urday morn­ing chat shortly after he ac­cep­ted the po­s­i­tion to lead his alma ma­ter. “Lo and be­hold, it worked out to the point where here I am. To go through the in­ter­view pro­cess and ul­ti­mately hav­ing it end with the phone call I got … it’s a dream come true.”

And though Todt told the North­east Times in an e-mail that he was not in­volved in Bradby’s ap­point­ment as head coach, it wasn’t a sur­prise to see a former pu­pil be­come the second boys soc­cer coach in school his­tory. Todt, also the long­time ath­let­ic dir­ect­or at Ry­an, has a his­tory of hir­ing former stu­dent-ath­letes at the school, from Frank McArdle (foot­ball) to Ry­an Haney (girls soc­cer) to Bernie Ro­gers (boys bas­ket­ball), so the de­cision to keep it in the fam­ily was pre­dict­able. Nobody is a big­ger be­liev­er in the “Ry­an tra­di­tion” than Todt, and it shows.

“Mr. Todt had a theme of ‘God, fam­ily and field,’ which is something he really be­lieves,” Bradby said. “Once you played for him, you be­came part of his fam­ily, and that re­mains true to this day. I want to es­tab­lish my own tra­di­tion here, but it will be built around what he taught me all those years ago. Everything comes full circle right back to Ry­an High School.”

Many voices in the Cath­ol­ic League, which Todt built in­to a state and na­tion­al soc­cer power­house over the years, have said how odd it will be to look at the Ry­an side­line next sea­son and not see Todt and his full head of slicked black hair, which, just like the old coach, stood up tre­mend­ously well over time.

Bradby, a 1986 Ry­an gradu­ate, was part of Todt’s most suc­cess­ful run at the school as a key mem­ber of four straight Cath­ol­ic League titles from 1983-86 (the Raid­ers also won cham­pi­on­ships in 1987 and 1988). Bradby was an All-Cath­ol­ic and All-City soc­cer play­er at Ry­an and con­tin­ued his stel­lar ca­reer for four years at La Salle Uni­versity, where he earned a de­gree in crim­in­al justice in 1990. He played pro­fes­sion­ally for the Illinois and Den­ver Thun­der of the Na­tion­al Pro­fes­sion­al Soc­cer League from 1991-93, and has coached at the high school, club and col­lege level since 1994. Un­til 2011, Bradby was the head men’s soc­cer coach at Holy Fam­ily Uni­versity, where he led the school to six straight con­fer­ence cham­pi­on­ship ap­pear­ances. 

He was a 2007 in­duct­ee to the Phil­adelphia Soc­cer Hall of Fame, and a mem­ber of the in­aug­ur­al class of Todt’s baby, the Arch­bish­op Ry­an Soc­cer Hall of Fame, in 2008. 

Bradby be­lieves in his abil­it­ies, but he is by no means look­ing to re­place George Todt.

“It’s not go­ing to be strange,” he in­sisted. “I’m my own per­son. What he’s done is something that will nev­er be for­got­ten, but I’m my own in­di­vidu­al, and I am con­fid­ent in my­self that I can run my own pro­gram here.”

A Park­wood nat­ive, Bradby has been around soc­cer his en­tire life. His fath­er, Walt, has been an as­sist­ant to Todt for the last three dec­ades, and will keep the same po­s­i­tion un­der his son. Mike’s young­er broth­er, Bri­an, an­oth­er former standout un­der Todt, will also be an as­sist­ant. All three are mem­bers of the Ry­an Soc­cer Hall of Fame. 

And des­pite be­ing new to the po­s­i­tion, Mike Bradby said he ex­pec­ted to chal­lenge for a Cath­ol­ic League title as soon as the up­com­ing sea­son. He is still gath­er­ing his per­son­nel, but said he met with the team re­cently and was “ex­cited” to coach play­ers like dy­nam­ic for­ward Mi­chael Kirby and 6-foot-5 goalie Jared Ott. 

“You un­der­stand what this school means if you’re a part of the tra­di­tion,” Bradby said. “When I played pro­fes­sion­ally, I wore my Ry­an gear out and about and talked about the school. To this day, I still think about it, how proud I am that I went there. I want that for these kids.”

Something else Bradby learned from Todt is that suc­cess in the classroom equates to real-life suc­cess after high school.

“Suc­cess comes with be­ing around good people,” Bradby said. “Mr. Todt not only taught me how to train as a soc­cer play­er, but also how to act like a pro­fes­sion­al. All of that stuff, that’s what I want to bring back to this pro­gram. It all comes down to how badly you want it, and how hard you’re will­ing to work. They should be proud to put that jer­sey on.”

Bradby, who bought his former coach’s house in 1996, nev­er had a prob­lem with stay­ing close to his roots. After he ap­plied for the job, he said Todt re­ferred to him as “one of his sons,” and that it was com­fort­ing to know he will still be there to give guid­ance if needed. 

“But he’s go­ing to al­low me to put my own stamp on this pro­gram,” Bradby said. “Everything I’ve learned comes from him and my fath­er. Play­ing for him is an ex­per­i­ence that in­flu­enced who I am today. Turn­ing hard work in­to suc­cess was the theme for us in the ’80s, and I’d like to con­tin­ue that.

“It’s something I’ve al­ways wanted … I just nev­er thought it would hap­pen,” he said.” ••

Sports Ed­it­or Ed Mor­rone can be reached at 215-354-3035 or em­or­rone@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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