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An enviable dilemma: Why Archie Bradley chose baseball over football

New Phillies reliever Archie Bradley faced the toughest decision of his career at the age of 18. Many MLB draftees have to make the choice to forgo a college education for professional baseball, but Bradley’s dilemma carried more weight.

Archie Bradley catching up with Kliff Kingsbury in 2019. Kingsbury recruited Bradley to play football at Texas Tech. (Mark Dalton/Arizona Cardinals).

In June of 2010, Bradley verbally committed to play quarterback and pitch for the Oklahoma Sooners. Shortly after that, he attended the Elite 11 camp, a four-day event in Southern California featuring the best high school quarterbacks from around the country. Bradley competed alongside the likes of Teddy Bridgewater, Jeff Driskel and Cody Kessler with the hopes of picking up a few things from a group of college QB camp counselors that included Kirk Cousins, Andy Dalton, Blaine Gabbert and Tyrod Taylor.

Growing up in Muskogee, Oklahoma, Bradley dreamed of one day playing for his beloved Oklahoma Sooners. Very few were more suited to do that than him.

Bradley was the star attraction at Broken Arrow Senior High School. Bradley, who was known for his accuracy and pocket awareness, went 109-for-182 in pass attempts, threw 21 touchdowns and five interceptions while falling a game short of a state championship in his junior year.

The three-star recruit was ranked the 15th best pro-style high school quarterback prospect in the country, according to Bradley said that he was once ranked ahead of Dak Prescott, Marcus Mariota and Johnny Manziel. He was also recruited by current Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury while he held the same job at Texas Tech.

Bradley, however, was a much better baseball prospect. Baseball America had Bradley as the ninth-best prospect heading into the 2011 draft. By the end of his senior season, Bradley, according to Kyle Denney, the Diamondbacks scout who signed him, routinely touched 99-mph with ease.

“I just remember dreaming on the fact that it was a guy who, if he could ever figure out that third pitch – a changeup or something along those lines – then you’re looking at a guy like a potential Chris Carpenter type of pitcher,” Denney told Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic in May 2020. “An innings eater, big-bodied, could dominate with two pitches but obviously had that third pitch to come in and keep guys off balance.

In his senior season, Bradley went 12-1 with an 0.29 ERA and 133 strikeouts in 71 1/3 innings. He struck out 14 batters over seven innings in a win over Owasso High School in Oklahoma’s Class 6A baseball final.

A month after the championship game, the Diamondbacks selected Bradley seventh overall in the 2011 draft. His decision to sign dragged all the way into August.

“Turning down Oklahoma is just … it’s just not heard of in that state,” Bradley told the Arizona Republic’s Scott Bordow in 2011.

Bradley ultimately chose the $5 million signing bonus and a chance to make it in the big leagues over a dual scholarship at Oklahoma. Taking the guaranteed money turned out to be the easy part, but the what-ifs still stuck with him.

“At the time when we agreed to terms, that’s where my mind was,” Bradley said in 2015. “Millions of dollars, I’m going to be a professional ballplayer. Then on the plane ride home, I was like: ‘Wow, this is cool. I’m about to be a millionaire and I’m 18 years old … but Oklahoma. I have the posters up in my room, I’ve been spinning footballs all year to stay in shape.’ Every kid’s dream is to run out on Owen Field and play for the Sooners. But as time went on I’m really glad I chose this path.”

So who ultimately led Bradley to the decision to sign with the Diamondbacks? According to Bradley, it was his father, a landscaper, who knocked some sense into him.

“I remember going to work for my dad and he literally shoved the weed eater on me and was like ‘Is this what you want to do, son? Is this what you want to fucking do?'” Bradley said on the R2C2 podcast with CC Sabathia and Ryan Ruocco in February 2019.

“Not that you have it rough. You have scholarship offers, all this shit and look at what you’re doing. Going through that draft process, he’s like ‘Son, I can mow a million lawns and not make what you just turned down at 18 years old. That for me changed everything.”

It’s safe to say that Charles Bradley is free from the burden of mowing lawns for strangers. His son Archie has made over $10 million in his MLB career so far and is due for a significant pay raise in his first year as a Phillie.

While Bradley never lived up to his hype as a starter, the former QB has carved out a solid career as a bullpen arm who can be trusted to get important outs late in games. We’ll never know if he was destined for stardom under center, but Bradley is surely at peace with that.


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