Every year, college graduates waive good-bye to their years at the university and must adjust to the routine of the "real world." For some, the transition to life outside of college is not so simple. John Ed Bradley started as an offensive lineman, was named an offensive captain his senior year and carried coach Charles McClendon off the field in Mac's final game at the Tangerine Bowl.

But when those times ended, Bradley struggled with his memories as a Tiger.


Following his senior season in 1979, Bradley started to distance himself from the program and teammates he loved for the past four years.


"I think I loved it too much," he said. "I decided it was better to divorce myself from LSU."


Bradley moved to Washington D.C. to start his career as a journalist at the Washington Post. While working for the newspaper, Bradley ignored the phone calls and messages he received from his teammates and coaches at LSU.


It was not until he received one call that Bradley was able to allow LSU football back into his life.


In the days leading up to his passing, McClendon, Bradley's coach for all four years of college, called his former player and invited him for a visit.


Bradley was so moved by the invitation that he could not find anyway to ignore Coach Mac.


"The greatest thing he ever did for me was let me see him at the end of his life," Bradley said. "He has given me such a great memory."


A few days after the visit, McClendon passed away. His death, however, inspired Bradley to confront his troubles about post-LSU life. One of the biggest realizations Bradley had was about Coach Mac.


"You don't always love your coach, but you always respect him when you're playing for him. I didn't really love him until it was over," Bradley said. "When you're playing at that level, there's a lot of survival involved. You don't have time to stop and look at a guy like Coach Mac, but later I felt it."


Bradley's time with his coach also gave him the courage to speak to former teammates he ignored for years.


After more than two decades apart, Bradley reunited with his college roommates, linebacker John Adams and tackle Ed Stanton.


"We shared everything together, like you would a brother," Bradley said. "You felt like you were with a great group of guys."


Bradley saw Adams for the first time in 21 years at a reunion for Coach McClendon, an event where the offensive lineman gave a speech about his coach.


Bradley also recently spent a weekend with Stanton, ending 25 years without seeing his college friend.


Bradley's career as a writer has also helped reconnect him to his college.


Bradley's story detailing his memories as a Tiger, titled "The Best Days of My Life," ran in the LSU national championship special edition of Sports Illustrated following the 2003 season.


He had no idea at the time, but that article would have a tremendous impact on his future.

After that story came out, Bradley was contacted by many of his LSU teammates. Today, he still keeps in touch with those players, either by exchanging e-mails or sitting down for a cup of coffee.


That story also presented Bradley with numerous writing opportunities. He was contacted by many publishing houses to write a novel about his years at LSU before agreeing to be one of the first writers in ESPN's new book publishing division.


For the past 18 months, Bradley locked himself in his homes in New Orleans and Opelousas and concentrated on his work. Last week, he completed his seventh book, and expects the novel to be released by the start of the 2007 football season.


"All those guys and coaches have been living with me in that room," Bradley said.


Although Bradley has received much acclaim for his fiction writing, he acknowledged that the name he created for himself as a member of the LSU football team has helped him to succeed in his professional career.


"Without LSU football, I doubt I would have been given the advantage I've gotten as a writer," he said.


Despite staying away from LSU in the past, Bradley knows the impact his time as a Tiger has had on him. Those early morning workouts, late night study sessions and Saturday nights in Death Valley have become vivid memories once more.


"More than that, it's one of those experiences that you never really recover from," he said. "That identity that you forge as a 21 year-old follows you forever."

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