Defensive Legend: Part II

Part II of our interview with former Irish great Luther Bradley has the Detroit, Mich. resident discussing the future of Notre Dame football and expectations. Bradley predicts a very bright future for Irish football under new head coach Charlie Weis.

Luther Bradley, like the rest of us, is a huge Notre Dame fan, and Bradley says the past 15 years of Notre Dame football hasn't lived up to the expectations.

"It was very difficult to watch," said Bradley about the recent Notre Dame teams. "I still only go to one game a year, but when I go down there, my expectation is to win and be competitive. When I don't see them competing, it depresses me.

"I remember I was watching a game with Montana in the press box and I said, ‘Joe, I can't watch this.' He said, ‘It isn't like it was when we were here.' It's really hard to watch it knowing about what has happened on the field there.

"You kind of wonder when this thing is going to turn around and get back to the normality of Notre Dame football, that we're on top of the football world."

"Now I think they've got a great coach," Bradley continued. "They've got a guy who's hungry. They got a guy who's really doing what it takes and that's recruiting. You have to get the very best players in the country, and that's what this is all about. You have to get the best players."

Bradley, like the rest of us, had to endure the past two coaching regimes, and living in Detroit makes his suffering a little more painful.

"It's sickening," said Bradley of being surrounded by Michigan fans. "I live in Detroit, and I live on a street where I'm just surrounded by these Michigan people. They stick these big "M" flags on their front porch every Saturday morning and it started to make me sick, so I had to go get a big ND flag that I fly every Saturday. I had to add some pride to our street.

"We've been fortunate the past few years. We beat them last year. We beat them two out of the last three, and I'm hoping it's going to be like that for awhile."

My theory has always been that Irish fans respect USC because their fans show Notre Dame the same respect—not the case with Michigan—and Bradley said the Irish teams he played on felt the same way.

"The Michigan people have that arrogance like they're better than we are, and they know they're not better than we are," he said with a big laugh.

"Absolutely, they think they're the best, and it doesn't matter if they're the best or not. USC always respected us, but not Michigan. I love Michigan people, but they're not my best buds during the football season."

Speaking of USC, Bradley played in some classic battles when both programs were at the pinnacle of their success. We asked Bradley what it was like to play in so many timeless battles with the Trojans.

"It was the most exciting time that I can ever remember," he said. "You had two great teams going at it. Both programs were at the top of their game. Every game we played against them was huge. It was always a nationally televised game. That game was always the pivotal game. You get so pumped up and so excited that you could feel the tension. You could hardly eat during the week because you were so nervous."

Luther also feels that the college game has changed recently.

"They have different attitudes," Bradley said of the current college players. "They don't have the same attitudes and passion for the place. When I went to school there….I believe in this place. I felt that we had to win games because we had to prove that we were good, and we felt a responsibility to uphold that Notre Dame tradition. We couldn't take off a game because our goal was to win the National Championship every year, and I mean every year. I think the expectation is a lot less, but I think over time, it'll get there."

The man in charge of changing that expectation is new head coach Charlie Weis, and Bradley thinks that Weis is the perfect man for the job.

"The pro teams, they have the best defensive coaches around. There is no question in my mind about that," said Bradley. "He dominated those guys in the NFL. That's why I think he'll be successful at Notre Dame. That and he understands what it was like at Notre Dame when we were at the top of the college football world.

"Coaching is all about being able to motivate somebody, and when you can motivate them and convince them to follow your lead, then you're going to be successful. I think Ara had that more than any other coach I ever saw.

"I think the first thing is they're going to respect him because of his accolades in the NFL," Bradley continued in talking about Weis. "This guy is really an offensive guy and really understands offense.

"It was amazing. I was reading something where it said that (Weis) goes into a game with three different game plans depending on what the score is. I don't know anyone that I've ever been around that had three different game plans.

"I think you'll see over time that the players will see that this guy has a plan, and if they follow his plan, they're going to win."

Since Bradley is widely considered one of the best defensive backs in Irish history, I asked him what it has been like to watch the Irish play pass defense in recent years.

"It's been awful," he said. "Again, I think it's the talent pool. When I look at their defensive backs, they're not very good. When I look at teams like when Lou Holtz was there, he had guys like Todd Lyght and Bobby Taylor, these guys were very good. They were very fast and very athletic. They didn't let guys get behind them. The last five or six years, it seemed like any team could throw for 500 yards against this defense. You can't do that.

"Part of it's the defensive backs, and part of it's the pass rush. They don't have guys that can rush the passer. They don't have the Ross Browner's or Willie Fry's. I think once our talent pool gets a little bit better; I think you'll see Notre Dame compete with anyone."

And what about picking off six passes in one game for the Chicago Blitz in the USFL?

"It was the weirdest thing I've ever seen," Bradley said. "It seemed like I could do no wrong. Every time I looked around I was reading the quarterback's eyes and he was throwing it to me. It was a pretty exciting night. George Allen was the coach and he said, ‘I've never seen anything like that in my life,' and he said, 'this is a record that will probably never be broken,' and it hasn't been yet."

I have to say this interview was a real treat for me. You won't find many people more inviting and enjoyable to talk to than Bradley.

The most refreshing part of the interview was the excitement in Bradley's voice when talking about his career at Notre Dame and his love for the university. There's no doubt in my mind he'd jump at the chance to play one more game in Notre Dame stadium, and from what I hear about Bradley currently, I don't think there would be much of a decline from '77 Bradley to the man he is today.

If you know of another former Irish great who might be interested in participating in a similar story, please e-mail me at: mikefrank18@gmail.com


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