Ed Bradley: Famous Winston-Salemite

Winston-Salem is one of the greatest small cities in the world. Famous Winston-Salemites will feature some accomplished people from Winston-Salem.
Ed Bradley’s first memories of Winston-Salem are the strong and sweet smells of tobacco from the R.J. Reynolds plant at Whitaker Park on his first visit with his dad here in 1968.He fell in love with the city on that visit and his main residence has been Winston-Salem ever since he first stepped foot here on his official visit to Wake Forest that spring. Bradley went on to become a two-time Super Bowl champion for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and became a folk hero as he stepped in for an all-time great to help the team win their first ever Super Bowl.

Bradley at Super Bowl IX 40th Reunion
Watch Bradley’s First Tackle in Super Bowl IX
Bradley comes from a bloodline of tough and physical football players. His dad, Ed Sr., played for Wake and then professionally for one of the best coaches of all-time, George Halas of the Chicago Bears, and then in Canada. Bradley’s son, Jeff, was a star defensive lineman for Western Carolina and had a short stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers. 
Ed Sr.
Ed Sr. was a defensive end and captain for Wake in the late forties, but this was when the Demon Deacons were East of Raleigh and not in Winston-Salem. In the late 1960’s, there wasn’t a lot of nationwide recruiting. Bradley was recruited by several New England schools in high school at Stratford High in Connecticut, but he wanted to head South.
Ed Sr. put in a call about his son to his old buddy, Gene Hooks, who was the athletic director at Wake. The Demon Deacons sent up an assistant coach, Dick Anderson, to watch Bradley play at Stratford. Within two weeks, Bradley received a scholarship offer from the school, and he signed it before even visiting the campus.
Even though Ed Sr. played at Wake, he had never been to Winston since Wake was located two hours east when he went there to school. The two came down for their first visit to Winston in April after Bradley had already signed.
Bradley said, “I remember driving into the main entrance and seeing a whole bunch of fraternity boys and sorority girls doing crazy competitions. I thought to myself, ‘damn, is this what college is like?'” 
When Bradley went to watch their spring game on that visit, he said, “I will never forget the smells being blown over the field.” He asked the team trainer, Doc Martin, what the smell was and Martin replied, “you are in the South now and that is tobacco.”

Bradley fell in love with Wake and Winston right away and it never changed. “After my first semester down here, I told my parents to take me back to Winston on my first Christmas break,” said Bradley. 
All three of his varsity seasons, Bradley was a starting defensive player for the Demon Deacons.  He played a huge role in their 1970 ACC Championship, and was selected to the East-West Shrine Bowl all star game and The Senior Bowl following his senior season. In 1987, Bradley was selected to the Wake Forest Sports Hall of Fame.”That was a real thrill and something I am very proud of,” said Bradley. 
Nowadays, the NFL Draft is a weekend extravaganza, but it wasn’t nearly as flashy in the early seventies. In 1972, Bradley was sitting around his Winston-Salem apartment with his football roommates. “Luckily, we had a landline phone,” said Bradley. As he sat around the apartment that day, he got a call from one of the greatest coaches in the history of sport, Chuck Noll. He was selected in the fourth round of the draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, the same draft that the Steelers selected one of the greatest players ever, Franco Harris.
The Steelers were a hard-hitting, blue collar team, but there was a serious problem. Prior to 1972 they flat-out stunk. Since their inaugural season in 1933, they had just seven

winning record seasons in thirty-eight years. Bradley didn’t know anything about the team. He grew up a fan of the New York Giants. Luckily his roommates were from McDonald, Brownsville, and Johnstown, Pennsylvania, so they were able to fill him in about “the Burgh.”

WFU Hall of Fame

Within two weeks, Bradley was up at training camp for the Steelers at St. Vincent College. Bradley had a successful rookie training camp, where he went through the normal hazing rituals of standing up in the cafeteria and singing to the team, and drinking all night so he had to “lose his lunch” at the next day’s practice. During the next two seasons, the Steelers and Coach Noll established the greatest defense to ever play the game, which included “The Steel Curtain.”
Bradley was a special teams star and was the back-up to one of the greatest linebacker corps ever, Jack Lambert, Andy Russell, and Jack Ham. That defense had a line that included “Mean” Joe Greene and L.C. Greenwood and a backfield with Mel Blount. Bradley got his chance to become a hero for the Steelers in their first ever Super Bowl.
Super Bowl IX was played in New Orleans at Tulane Stadium. During the second quarter, Jack Lambert went down with a bad ankle injury, and Noll called Bradley’s number 38 to replace him at middle linebacker. “The Steel Curtain” didn’t skip a beat with Bradley replacing the hall of fame linebacker.

Super Bowl IX and X rings

The Steelers were playing the Vikings, who were led by another hall of fame player, quarterback Fran Tarkenton. When Bradley came into the game, the Vikings referred to him as “turkey.” Bradley played such a great game that the broadcaster kept referring to him as Lambert. The Steelers went on to stop Tarkenton and the Vikings, and won their first Super Bowl, 16-6. Coach Noll said after the game, “Bradley was beautiful. He made big hits and big plays.” Bradley said, “I had a hell of a game. We wanted to win one for our owner, the Chief (Art Rooney) and we did!”
He went on to win Super Bowl X with the Steelers in their victory over the Dallas Cowboys. In 1976, he was selected by the Seattle Seahawks to join their inaugural team and became a team captain. “It was like going from the penthouse to the outhouse, from going from a Super Bowl Champion to a two-game winning team,” said Bradley. He played a year in Seattle and started two more seasons for the San Francisco 49ers before a leg injury forced him into an early retirement. He said he is and will always be a Steeler at heart.

A personal note from the Chief
“I liked the West Coast, because I knew I was coming back here to Winston for the off-season,” he said. During his entire NFL career, Bradley had a place in the Winston area to live in during the off-season. In fact, his first three years he came home to finish his studies at Wake. Bradley said, “After our first Super Bowl victory, I went back to Pittsburgh for the big parade and then packed up my car and was back in math class at Wake within a week.” 
Over the last thirty-five years, Bradley has worked as a color commentator for Wake Forest, run a successful charity golf tournament for Brenner Children’s Hospital, and had a successful career in scrap metal with Brenner Steel/Omnisource that he retired from two years ago. He stopped broadcasting at Wake, so he could enjoy tailgating and watching Jeff play at Western Carolina.

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Bradley has two daughters that are now married, Jennifer and Katie. He married his wife, Jeannine, in 2007 and they built a house together in Davidson County. They enjoy spending quality time with their four grandchildren and they have a fifth on the way. “Being a grandfather is super and something you have to experience. It is a heartwarming feeling,” said Bradley.
Below Bradley answers questions about his favorite parts of Winston-Salem and more about football: 
Where all have you lived in the Winston area?
I lived in an apartment at the corner of Peacehaven and Country Club and another on Polo Road. I purchased my first home in Lewisville, and then I moved with my first wife, Barbara, to Shallowford Lakes. Now my daughter, Jenn, and her husband Chad live in that same house. Now we live in Davidson County, but we have a Winston-Salem address.
What are your favorite three restaurants in Winston of all-time?
A lot of my college time was spent at Simos Barbecue on Indiana Avenue, not too far from campus. It was our college hangout and is no longer open. I also love Vincenzo’s on Robinhood and Ryan’s on Coliseum. 
What is your favorite nickname of our minor-league baseball team: Spirits, Warthogs, or Dash?
I like Warthogs. Sounds more intimidating.
If you were on a stranded island and could just have one breakfast for the rest of your life, which would you choose: Moravian sugar cake, Bojangles biscuits, or Krispy Kreme doughnuts?
Where’s the beef? Jay, Where’s the beef? Krispy Kreme doughnut.

What is your favorite North Carolina Beach?
Ocean Isle
What is your favorite place to go in the NC mountains?
All those years going up to Western, I love Cullowhee and Sylva. Lots of good times there.
Do you make it up to Pittsburgh for games very often?
We try to make one game a year. In 2014, I got to see all of my favorite teammates at the 40th reunion of our first Super Bowl. I got to take my wife and kids, and their spouses to the event. We were honored at halftime of a game against the Saints. There were twenty-eight of thirty-four of the living players at the game to share that experience. This year, Jeff and I went up to see them on a Sunday night against the Colts.

Bradley honored at Stratford High

They won that game didn’t they?
It was a good ass-kicking. I loved it.
When you aren’t in Pittsburgh, where do you like to watch the games?
At home. I have two big-screen televisions that I can watch the games on from our kitchen and living rooms. (He wasn’t kidding. When I visited the house, you literally can see a big-screen television any way you look in their main living area. He even has one on the porch, if he needs to go out there to watch on his own).
Can the Steelers win the Super Bowl this upcoming season?
I think that way every year. Come on man! Hell yeah! Think team first guys.
Do you have any favorite players on the current team?
Big Ben (Roethlisberger) for sure. He has always been under-rated. He is solid, smart, and fundamentally and mentally strong. James Harrison is a freak of nature, a real beast. I love seeing him keep coming back at his age.
What is different about the game today than when you played?
Well number one, the players now are so much bigger and faster. I wouldn’t say they are tougher! There is a lot of specialization now. We used to block back, tackle below the knees and clothesline for tackles. For good reasons, they got rid of a lot of that. It’s still a dangerous game. You have to love it!
Do you have any great memories of Coach Noll or the Rooney family?
We won that first Super Bowl for “The Chief” Art Rooney. He was a great man. The Rooney’s are class acts for their benevolence and kindness. Coach Noll was a true genius and renaissance man. He knew more about classical music and wine than football. I was at the U.S. Open golf tournament in Pinehurst when he passed away, and I got to go up for the funeral.

74 steelers

What was it like playing on the greatest defense of all time?
You know, we knew we were good back then. Once we put on our helmets, we knew another team couldn’t beat us. Obviously we won a hell of a lot more than we lost. Coach Knoll was such a great coach because he surrounded himself with an exemplary coaching staff. We knew we couldn’t be beat!

75 superbowlchamps

Starbucks:Where I Meet Famous People

Ever since I became sick from coffee in a little restaurant in Heidelberg, Germany in 1996, I have never enjoyed it again. If I am forced to go to Starbucks by my wife, I usually get an iced tea and potentially a piece of banana bread. The only real reason I go to Starbucks is to meet famous people.

I don’t think Starbucks will mind that I don’t like their coffee. Members of my soccer team go daily. Heck, my dad keeps the Starbucks on Fifth Street in Downtown Winston-Salem open single-handedly with his business.

In the mid-2000’s, I had two encounters with famous people at Starbucks. One brush was at the Starbucks of the first floor of the William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh and the other was at the Knollwood Starbucks in Winston-Salem. Both meetings were awkward, mainly from how I handled them.

My dad and I drove up to Pittsburgh to catch a Pirates baseball game and to see Chelsea play Roma at Heinz Field. Chelsea is the equivalent to the New York Yankees in the English Premier Soccer League due to the amount of money they shell out to their players. Roma is the biggest club in Rome. The two teams were playing an over-priced exhibition game.

Now in Pittsburgh, if an athlete is not wearing Black and Yellow, they typically don’t care too much about them. The “Yinzers” especially don’t care too much about European Football. My dad knew that lots of times, professional sports teams playing in Pittsburgh stay at the William Penn. We had time to waste so we headed that way before the games, and as soon as my dad saw the Starbucks inside the lobby, he jolted that way like a dog after a tennis ball.

While we were waiting in line, I just happened to pick up the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, and there was a story about the soccer match on the front page with a big picture of Francesco Totti. Totti is one of the most famous Italian players in history. He led them to the 2006 World Cup Title a couple years later.

In the headline under the picture it reads: “Totti: known by his last name, is Roma striker, Euro hearthrob and butt of jokes about his intelligence.” In Europe, he is the equivalent of Kobe Bryant and Tom Brady. In Pittsburgh, he is short guy with long hair.

That short guy with long hair, just happened to get in line right in front of us at the Starbucks accompanied by an older man in Roma warm-ups. As soon as I recognized him I not-so-nonchalantly hit my dad on the arm and showed him the picture I was holding in the paper. He motioned for me to get his autograph. There were probably twenty people in the Starbucks and they had no idea who he was or that he made more money in a game than they all did in a year.

I tapped Totti on the shoulder, and said something to the extent of you are a really great player. He just stared at me. I said it would be really cool to get your autograph. He continued to just stare at me. Finally, I held up a pen my dad handed me and the paper. He caught my drift and signed the picture. When it was his turn to order, the other man ordered for him. At this point, we realized he had no idea what I was saying because he didn’t speak a lick of English. The man with him just happened to be his translator.

Just a couple months after my encounter with Totti, I was driving through Ardmore in the passenger seat of John Van Zandt’s Honda, when I spotted Ben Folds and an older woman walking into the Starbucks on Knollwood in Ardmore.

As we were headed back to our Ardmore house that we rented, we argued back and forth about whether it really was Ben Folds. Finally after the yelling tampered down, we decided to go back to see if it was really him. We walked in and it was most definitely him.

I knew a lot about Folds since he went to the R.J. Reynolds High School and graduated fifteen years before I did. When I was in high school, we wrote an article about him for the Pine Whispers newspaper at the same time that his hit song “Brick” came out. I had also seen him in concert a couple times at Davidson College and Wait Chapel at Wake Forest.

I walked over to him and an older woman that we believed was his mom. He was in town visiting his parents. At the time, he lived in Australia and was set to release his second solo album. Just like Totti, I tried to engage him in conversation, and just like Totti, he probably thought I was a bit of an idiot. I talked about Pine Whispers, Reynolds, and his song “Army,” and he just looked at me. At the end, I spotted a Starbucks napkin and grabbed it and asked him to sign it for me. He nicely agreed and we left him to finally enjoy his Starbucks with his mom.

It has been at least ten years since I have met a famous person in Starbucks. Every time I go into one, I look around just to make sure a famous person isn’t sitting down, because the only reason I go to Starbucks is to meet famous people.