When thinking about Christmas gifts this year, Coach Hopson and his staff might want to consider thank you notes for other schools in the region that passed on Dylan Bradley because they didn't think he'd be very good at the division one level.
Coach Monken deserves one too, for seeing something in Dylan and even being prophetic in his capabilities at Southern Miss.
"He (Coach Monken) told me that he believed in me and that is not something I heard from many college coaches," Bradley told GoldenEaglePride.com.
"Most college coaches told me that I was to small, not big enough or tall enough to play defensive line. Other coaches told me maybe I could be used on offense. Coach Monk believed me and said I could be one of the best defensive linemen in the state and he gave me that shot. I'm glad he did because I've never regretted it since the day I've been here. Coach Hopson has continued to believe in me and everyone that I'm around here is always encouraging me."
Bradley came down to Hattiesburg from Noxubee County HS in Macon, (MS). From day one as a true freshman, also Coach Monken's first year, he's been an anchor on the defensive line and one who has truly found a home down south.
"The family here is just bigger than I ever imagined," he said.
"This school is a family. I've been through trials and tribulations here and I'd always get a phone call from someone- from the AD on down just making sure I'm ok. That shows how close everyone at this university is."
It all culminated for the talented lineman when he ran out onto the field for his final home game against Louisiana Tech, one that Southern Miss had to have to become bowl eligible.
"It was very emotional time for me and a very emotional day," he said.
"But, it was a very satisfying day. I remember the first time I ran out on to that field against Texas State my freshman year, so I was thinking about that a lot. It was a bittersweet moment, and overall I enjoyed the day and the time. Seeing my name on the screen one more time and hearing the fans cheer for me one last time was a special moment for me and it showed me how much this university appreciated me."
We could look at stats and all-conference performances all day, but the one characteristic that seemed to define Dylan Bradley above the rest was his relentless effort. This is one trait that he's had instilled in him for quite some time.
"One of my favorite players is Ray Lewis and he always said, 'No one can judge effort because effort is between you and you. They can't judge you on film because they haven't seen what you are going to give today.'
"That is something I've always kept in the back of my mind, and I always would come out with a chip on my shoulder and I tried to bring that effort every single play. Hearing him speak about that is something I'll always remember and I tried to pass that on to the younger guys as well. Even if you want to quit, you have to think about those that aren't as fortunate as you are and you have to let that continue to drive you."
He's let it drive him all the way to another bowl game. In his first season, the Eagles only won 1 game to end the season against UAB. Now, he has the opportunity to go out as a winner in a bowl game, something that might have felt like just a pipe dream in his first season.
"It is the 2nd year in a row that I will get to go to a bowl game and I'm very excited about that," Bradley said.
"We have had a lot of fun at practice and enjoy these last days with each other. We are playing for each other and the fans and people that continued to believe in us even after all the hard times we've been through to rebuild this program. There are fans that continued to come to every game and we are playing for them. We have a chance to go down there and get us a win to finish this thing out.
"That is what we are preparing to do."
NFL Scouts take notice. Dylan Bradley- heart of a warrior, heart of a champion.