NORTHRIDGE — Jaumal Bradley has come so far, yet he just can't seem to get going at Cal State Northridge.
Bradley returned to the practice field this week, thinner and wiser. Encouraging news for the Matadors, who figure to rely heavily on their senior fullback during a Big Sky Conference game today at Montana.
Bradley, the Matadors' leading rusher, has missed two games because of an undiagnosed illness. Doctors initially said he had tonsillitis, but now, Bradley says, no one is certain. All he knows is his throat became so swollen he couldn't swallow.
He was so weak he spent three days in the hospital, being fed intravenously.
"It feels good to be out here again," said Bradley, who lost 16 pounds. "But I'm tired. After practice, all I want to do is go home and rest."
How much of an impact Bradley can make against the defending conference-champion Grizzlies is uncertain--even to Bradley.
"I weigh myself every day after practice and [Tuesday] I was 195," Bradley said. "I think my running style will have to change. I'll have to be a little more elusive than I have been. I know I'm not as strong as everyone."
Perhaps not physically, but Bradley, 25, adds a lot more to the Matadors than rushing yards. One of the team's four captains, his age and experience--he came to Northridge after serving a 7 1/2-year sentence with the California Youth Authority for his role in a gang-related killing--makes him a formidable leader.
His season, though, has gotten off to a rough start. Bradley, the front-runner for the starting position among several talented backs, was sidetracked by food poisoning that caused him to miss almost a week of practice in August.
He played in the first two games, gaining 198 yards and scoring two touchdowns. Then, his latest illness knocked him out of two games.
Interim Coach Jeff Kearin visited Bradley in the hospital and left confident that Bradley was in good spirits.
"He's a bit older than some of the other guys and he's been through a lot," Kearin said. "He said, 'Here I am fighting this virus and there are other people fighting to be alive.' It kind of puts everything in perspective."
Being bedridden gave Bradley time to contemplate.
"A lot of things have happened in my life and I have to look at the accomplishments in my life that I've made to get to this point," Bradley said. "Coming from gangs and the Y.A., being involved in shootings and stabbings and all the stuff I've survived in my life. And after all the adversity I've overcome, here I am in the hospital with tonsillitis.
"You see a lot of people in there fighting for their lives and I'm just anxious to get back on the football field."
Bradley grabbed the attention of the Matadors' coaches after a stellar career at Mt. San Antonio College, where he rushed for 1,287 yards and 20 touchdowns in two years, playing a major role in a 12-0 team that won a national championship in 1997.
As a backup last season to Melvin Blue, Bradley rushed for 374 yards and did not score a touchdown. He was frustrated by his limited number of carries and made his feelings known.
"He has said that he would like to carry the ball more," Kearin said. "But he's just interested in our running game being effective."
Bradley was released in time for kickoff last weekend. He roamed the sideline in street clothes Saturday at North Campus Stadium, watching the Matadors rally to defeat Idaho State.
His clothes sagged and everyone remarked about his loss of weight.
Always trying to see the positive in things, Bradley said that might be an advantage.
"As far as my speed, I may be a little faster now," Bradley said. "We'll see."
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* COLLEGE GAMEDAY
* THIS WEEK IN THE BIG SKY
* UCLA 2, NORTHRIDGE 1
In men's soccer, sloppy timekeeping cost the Matadors in a double overtime loss to the sixth-ranked Bruins.
* WSC CROSS-COUNTRY
Brian Spangenberg, a 35-year-old freshman for College of the Canyons, won his first conference meet of the season.
Coverage, Page 10