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Bradshaw, Terry (1948—)

Bradshaw, Terry (1948—)

A country-bred, southern farm boy with a strong passing arm, Terry Bradshaw used the principles of discipline and hard work that he learned as a child to become one of the greatest quarterbacks the game of football has ever seen. His career statistics still stand as a substantial lifetime achievement for any player: two Super Bowl MVPs, 27,989 yards gained, 212 touchdowns passed, and 32 touch-downs rushed in his fourteen-year National Football League career. Though his football fame ensured him a shot at a career as a sports commentator, it is Bradshaw's down-to-earth, unpretentious style that continues to endear him to his audience.

Bradshaw was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, and raised in a farming family. "I was born to work, taught to work, love to work," he said. Even on the football field, he performed his job faultlessly, developing the pinpoint accurate passing that would become his trademark. He attended college at Louisiana Technical University, where he made All-American, an unusual honor since Louisiana Tech was not a Division I team. In 1970, quarterback Bradshaw was the first player selected in the professional football draft.

For the next twelve years the Louisiana boy with the perfect spiral pass led the Pittsburgh Steelers to victory after victory, including four Super Bowl championships. The Steelers were the first team to win four Super Bowls, and, in 1979 and 1980, Bradshaw was only the second player ever to win recognition as Most Valuable Player in two back-to-back Super Bowls. Bradshaw was the unanimous choice for the MVP honor in Super Bowls XIII and XIV, a phenomenon that had not occurred since Bart Starr won back-to-back MVP honors in Super Bowls I and II.

By 1982, Bradshaw's amazing passing arm was beginning to show signs of damage. He toughed it out, playing in pain through much of the 1982 season, but the doctors' diagnosis was chronic muscle deterioration, and the prescription was surgery. In March of 1983, Bradshaw underwent the surgery, but he could not withstand pressure from Steelers coach Chuck Noll to return to the game. He resumed playing too soon, causing permanent damage to his elbow. Bradshaw played only a few games in the 1983 season, then was forced to retire.

Though regretting that his retirement from the playing field had not been on his own terms, Bradshaw continued to make football his career. In 1989, he was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame, and the next year he went to work for CBS as co-anchor of NFL Today. He worked for CBS for four years, then the FOX network doubled his salary and hired him as a game-day commentator and host of FOX NFL. FOX also made surprising use of Bradshaw's homespun talents by giving him a daytime talk show. Home Team with Terry Bradshaw was described by one executive as "Martha Stewart meets Monday Night Football." Pundits wondered how the rugged football veteran would handle the traditionally female forum of daytime talk, but Bradshaw's easygoing style seemed to take it all in stride. In fact, it is Bradshaw's unapologetic country-boy persona that seems to appeal to fans. Though critics have called his commentary incompetent and even buffoonish, Bradshaw's "just folks" approach continues to make him popular. His response to critics has been typically disarming, "I stutter, I stammer, I scratch, and I do it all on live television … I can't help it. It's me. What are you going to do about it? You can't change who you are."

Bradshaw has appeared in many movies, often alongside fellow ex-football star Burt Reynolds, and has ambitions to have his own television situation comedy. A Christian who found his religion while watching Monday Night Football, he has released two successful gospel albums. However, he has never become part of the entertainment establishment, and he is happiest at home on his Texas cattle ranch, working hard.

—Tina Gianoulis

Further Reading:

Benagh, Jim. Terry Bradshaw: Superarm of Pro Football. New York, Putnam, 1976.

Bradshaw, Terry. Looking Deep. Chicago, Contemporary Books, 1989.

Frankl, Ron. Terry Bradshaw. New York, Chelsea House, 1995.

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