April 19, 2014 11:11:33 PM
Jerrod Bradley believes there's an order to things.
Between football, soccer, baseball, studies, community service work, and hanging out with friends, there hardly seems to be enough time in a day to do everything that needs to be done -- let alone just take a breath and relax.
But Bradley's plan helps him keep it simple. In his mind, there is no other way.
"Student comes first," Bradley said, when asked to define what "student-athlete" means to him. "You have to have all of your grades right in the classroom. As long as you are eligible to play, you can still excel on the field."
Bradley had done that and much more since transferring to New Hope High School. In addition to being a varsity player on three sports, Bradley has been one of the school's top performers in the classroom. His achievements were recognized last month when he was honored as the male recipient of the Lindy Callahan Scholar-Athlete Award from District 4. Bradley was one of eight boys and eight girls recognized in the 19th-annual awards ceremony in Jackson. The award is named for the Hall of Fame former Gulfport High athletic director.
Each of the district winners -- chosen from more than 280 applicants -- receive a $1,500 college scholarship with the help of the program's supporters.
For Bradley, the award carried extra significance: He is the first from New Hope High to win it.
"It is more than a student-athlete," Bradley said, when asked for his definition of "scholar-athlete." "It is someone who doesn't just get by. It is someone who doesn't just put up with what it takes to be eligible to play in high school sports. It is someone who tries to be the best they can possibly be."
In addition to receiving the Lindy Callahan Scholar-Athlete Award, Bradley recently was named New Hope High's Star Student. The Student-Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) program in an effort to encourage scholastic achievement among the state's high school students. Its goals are to emphasize scholastic excellence and to encourage greater scholastic effort among Mississippi students and to recognize the teaching profession.
Bradley credits his parents, Aimee and Paul, for setting the standard he has tried to follow ever since he was in elementary school. He said he has "tried his best" not to be "lazy" in the classroom or on any field he plays on. With a grade-point average of 3.96 and a spot in Ole Miss' early entry pharmacy program, Bradley has followed a "simple" plan of taking care of his schoolwork before he can move on the next thing. Many times, that other activity -- whether it was football, soccer, baseball -- was more attractive than his homework. He remembers back to second or third grade and not seeing the bigger picture behind his parents' rules.
"I really thought, 'Can I just go outside and play and get my homework done at night when it is dark and I can't play outside anymore?' " Bradley said. "But it just wasn't the time period. They were making sure academics came first no matter what I was doing. I really appreciate what they did now. When I go to college, instead of having to go out with friends, I will make sure I have all my homework done and then I will go out if I have the time."
Bradley said his friends have come to understand his priorities and that he has to take care of his homework first before he can go to the mall, a movie, or hang out. It doesn't matter what day of the week, either. As long as Bradley has completed his homework and his chores, he is free to do what he wants to do with his friends.
"It is like brushing your teeth. Every day you have to do your homework and then you have free time," Bradley said. "You might as well get it out of the way because you know it is coming."
New Hope High baseball coach Lee Boyd has coached Bradley the past two seasons. Last year, Bradley saw time as a courtesy runner in the Trojans' run to a Class 5A state title. This season, Bradley has seen playing time in the outfield. He said Bradley has served as a great example for all of his players.
"He is always positive," Boyd said. "I have never heard a negative word from Jerrod. He is always rooting for our guys. He is a very intelligent young man who makes good grades and puts his schoolwork first. He is a great kid and a good student-athlete."
Bradley said it is special to be one of 16 in the state to receive the scholarship. He said it is even more rewarding to be New Hope High's first to be honored. But that honor won't distract him from the way he does things. Instead, it only reinforces the importance of sticking to the plan because receiving the Lindy Callahan Scholar-Athlete Award shows he has his priorities in order and is on the right path to achieve even bigger rewards. He also does community volunteer work through Mount Vernon Baptist Church.
"I guess I understood I wasn't good enough, by any means, to try to make it to the NFL or MLS and that the best path for me would be to use my brain, to use academics to go on," Bradley said. "I have a set route there. If I was to go play football, it probably would be for only two years. That is two years compared to the rest of my life. I have had enough fun playing high school sports and I think I have had enough of it.
"I have seen the results from different people, people who felt academics was something they could just blow by. They probably don't succeed as well as those who push themselves to be the best they can be. I guess I have tried to be the best I can be and haven't taken no for an answer, or have been lazy in high school sports or in grades."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.