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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Best Back on Field Was on the Sideline

September 17, 2000|VINCE KOWALICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jaumal Bradley roamed the sidelines Saturday at North Campus Stadium, proudly donning his No. 11 red Cal State Northridge jersey and rubbing shoulders with his former teammates.

Too bad Bradley wasn't wearing pads. The Matadors needed him.

"I would give anything to have Jaumal Bradley," Coach Jeff Kearin of Northridge said after the Matadors' 49-26 Big Sky Conference loss to Northern Arizona.

Bradley's graduation in May after a productive and poignant career at Northridge, has left Northridge weak at running back. The Matadors have rushed for only 271 yards in three games and the team's most effective rusher is quarterback Marcus Brady.

But Bradley, 26, is equally missed in the locker room. Kearin called upon the former Matador captain to address the team before playing Northern Arizona.

"I really needed to hear that," linebacker Cos Abercrombie. "He just came in and gave us one of his speeches like he always used to."

Bradley's story is well-known at Northridge but still it is an inspiration to hear. Affiliated with gangs throughout his youth, Bradley served 7 1/2 years in the California Youth Authority for his role in a gang-related killing. His life turned when he turned to football.

Last season, Bradley led Northridge with 907 yards rushing. He also worked as an intern for his uncle, Mayor Omar Bradley of Compton, while earning his degree in urban studies. Bradley works today as his uncle's assitant.

"I'm kind of like the deputy mayor," Bradley said. "It's an appointment. I had to leave for a while to finish getting my degree, but I'm back there now."

Bradley spent part of the summer with the Baltimore Ravens in an unsuccessful tryout.

What advice did Bradley offer his former team?

"I just wanted to encourage them to play hard," Bradley said. "I told them this is the first step in a long journey. I was just hoping the team leaders would take charge."

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Brady led Northridge in rushing, gaining 62 yards in 15 carries. He had 121 yards in gains, including electrifying scrambles from the pocket that went for 50 and 51 yards in the second half, but lost yardage on sacks.

Brady ranks second on the team in rushing but clearly is the team's most lethal running threat.

"That's the beauty of having Marcus Brady," Kearin said. "That's what he does."

Brady prefers the pocket but is becoming increasingly aware of his role in kick-starting an anemic running attack.

"I want to do that," Brady said. "I want to be more effective on the ground. I felt I had to do that. They were leaving the middle open."

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Expect Brady to look deep for D.J. Hackett in the coming weeks, especially with Drew Amerson sidelined because of a knee injury.

Hackett made highlight-reel catches of Brady bombs for touchdowns in the first half, displaying impressive balance and leaping ability on both grabs. One play carried 76 yards the other 52.

Hackett, a freshman from San Dimas High, had five receptions for 173 yards.

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