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Winston-Salem is one of the greatest small cities in the world. Famous Winston-Salemites will feature some accomplished people from Winston-Salem.
Ed Bradley’s first memories of Winston-Salem are the strong and sweet smells of tobacco from the R.J. Reynolds plant at Whitaker Park on his first visit with his dad here in 1968.He fell in love with the city on that visit and his main residence has been Winston-Salem ever since he first stepped foot here on his official visit to Wake Forest that spring. Bradley went on to become a two-time Super Bowl champion for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and became a folk hero as he stepped in for an all-time great to help the team win their first ever Super Bowl.

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Bradley at Super Bowl IX 40th Reunion

Watch Bradley’s First Tackle in Super Bowl IX
Bradley comes from a bloodline of tough and physical football players. His dad, Ed Sr., played for Wake and then professionally for one of the best coaches of all-time, George Halas of the Chicago Bears, and then in Canada. Bradley’s son, Jeff, was a star defensive lineman for Western Carolina and had a short stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers. 
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Ed Sr.

Ed Sr. was a defensive end and captain for Wake in the late forties, but this was when the Demon Deacons were East of Raleigh and not in Winston-Salem. In the late 1960’s, there wasn’t a lot of nationwide recruiting. Bradley was recruited by several New England schools in high school at Stratford High in Connecticut, but he wanted to head South.
Ed Sr. put in a call about his son to his old buddy, Gene Hooks, who was the athletic director at Wake. The Demon Deacons sent up an assistant coach, Dick Anderson, to watch Bradley play at Stratford. Within two weeks, Bradley received a scholarship offer from the school, and he signed it before even visiting the campus.
Even though Ed Sr. played at Wake, he had never been to Winston since Wake was located two hours east when he went there to school. The two came down for their first visit to Winston in April after Bradley had already signed.
Bradley said, “I remember driving into the main entrance and seeing a whole bunch of fraternity boys and sorority girls doing crazy competitions. I thought to myself, ‘damn, is this what college is like?'” 
When Bradley went to watch their spring game on that visit, he said, “I will never forget the smells being blown over the field.” He asked the team trainer, Doc Martin, what the smell was and Martin replied, “you are in the South now and that is tobacco.”

Bradley fell in love with Wake and Winston right away and it never changed. “After my first semester down here, I told my parents to take me back to Winston on my first Christmas break,” said Bradley. 
All three of his varsity seasons, Bradley was a starting defensive player for the Demon Deacons.  He played a huge role in their 1970 ACC Championship, and was selected to the East-West Shrine Bowl all star game and The Senior Bowl following his senior season. In 1987, Bradley was selected to the Wake Forest Sports Hall of Fame.”That was a real thrill and something I am very proud of,” said Bradley. 
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Nowadays, the NFL Draft is a weekend extravaganza, but it wasn’t nearly as flashy in the early seventies. In 1972, Bradley was sitting around his Winston-Salem apartment with his football roommates. “Luckily, we had a landline phone,” said Bradley. As he sat around the apartment that day, he got a call from one of the greatest coaches in the history of sport, Chuck Noll. He was selected in the fourth round of the draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, the same draft that the Steelers selected one of the greatest players ever, Franco Harris.
The Steelers were a hard-hitting, blue collar team, but there was a serious problem. Prior to 1972 they flat-out stunk. Since their inaugural season in 1933, they had just seven

winning record seasons in thirty-eight years. Bradley didn’t know anything about the team. He grew up a fan of the New York Giants. Luckily his roommates were from McDonald, Brownsville, and Johnstown, Pennsylvania, so they were able to fill him in about “the Burgh.”

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WFU Hall of Fame

Within two weeks, Bradley was up at training camp for the Steelers at St. Vincent College. Bradley had a successful rookie training camp, where he went through the normal hazing rituals of standing up in the cafeteria and singing to the team, and drinking all night so he had to “lose his lunch” at the next day’s practice. During the next two seasons, the Steelers and Coach Noll established the greatest defense to ever play the game, which included “The Steel Curtain.”
Bradley was a special teams star and was the back-up to one of the greatest linebacker corps ever, Jack Lambert, Andy Russell, and Jack Ham. That defense had a line that included “Mean” Joe Greene and L.C. Greenwood and a backfield with Mel Blount. Bradley got his chance to become a hero for the Steelers in their first ever Super Bowl.
Super Bowl IX was played in New Orleans at Tulane Stadium. During the second quarter, Jack Lambert went down with a bad ankle injury, and Noll called Bradley’s number 38 to replace him at middle linebacker. “The Steel Curtain” didn’t skip a beat with Bradley replacing the hall of fame linebacker.

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Super Bowl IX and X rings

The Steelers were playing the Vikings, who were led by another hall of fame player, quarterback Fran Tarkenton. When Bradley came into the game, the Vikings referred to him as “turkey.” Bradley played such a great game that the broadcaster kept referring to him as Lambert. The Steelers went on to stop Tarkenton and the Vikings, and won their first Super Bowl, 16-6. Coach Noll said after the game, “Bradley was beautiful. He made big hits and big plays.” Bradley said, “I had a hell of a game. We wanted to win one for our owner, the Chief (Art Rooney) and we did!”
He went on to win Super Bowl X with the Steelers in their victory over the Dallas Cowboys. In 1976, he was selected by the Seattle Seahawks to join their inaugural team and became a team captain. “It was like going from the penthouse to the outhouse, from going from a Super Bowl Champion to a two-game winning team,” said Bradley. He played a year in Seattle and started two more seasons for the San Francisco 49ers before a leg injury forced him into an early retirement. He said he is and will always be a Steeler at heart.

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A personal note from the Chief

“I liked the West Coast, because I knew I was coming back here to Winston for the off-season,” he said. During his entire NFL career, Bradley had a place in the Winston area to live in during the off-season. In fact, his first three years he came home to finish his studies at Wake. Bradley said, “After our first Super Bowl victory, I went back to Pittsburgh for the big parade and then packed up my car and was back in math class at Wake within a week.” 
Over the last thirty-five years, Bradley has worked as a color commentator for Wake Forest, run a successful charity golf tournament for Brenner Children’s Hospital, and had a successful career in scrap metal with Brenner Steel/Omnisource that he retired from two years ago. He stopped broadcasting at Wake, so he could enjoy tailgating and watching Jeff play at Western Carolina.

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Bradley has two daughters that are now married, Jennifer and Katie. He married his wife, Jeannine, in 2007 and they built a house together in Davidson County. They enjoy spending quality time with their four grandchildren and they have a fifth on the way. “Being a grandfather is super and something you have to experience. It is a heartwarming feeling,” said Bradley.
Below Bradley answers questions about his favorite parts of Winston-Salem and more about football: 
Where all have you lived in the Winston area?
I lived in an apartment at the corner of Peacehaven and Country Club and another on Polo Road. I purchased my first home in Lewisville, and then I moved with my first wife, Barbara, to Shallowford Lakes. Now my daughter, Jenn, and her husband Chad live in that same house. Now we live in Davidson County, but we have a Winston-Salem address.
What are your favorite three restaurants in Winston of all-time?
A lot of my college time was spent at Simos Barbecue on Indiana Avenue, not too far from campus. It was our college hangout and is no longer open. I also love Vincenzo’s on Robinhood and Ryan’s on Coliseum. 
What is your favorite nickname of our minor-league baseball team: Spirits, Warthogs, or Dash?
I like Warthogs. Sounds more intimidating.
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If you were on a stranded island and could just have one breakfast for the rest of your life, which would you choose: Moravian sugar cake, Bojangles biscuits, or Krispy Kreme doughnuts?
Where’s the beef? Jay, Where’s the beef? Krispy Kreme doughnut.

What is your favorite North Carolina Beach?
Ocean Isle
What is your favorite place to go in the NC mountains?
All those years going up to Western, I love Cullowhee and Sylva. Lots of good times there.
Do you make it up to Pittsburgh for games very often?
We try to make one game a year. In 2014, I got to see all of my favorite teammates at the 40th reunion of our first Super Bowl. I got to take my wife and kids, and their spouses to the event. We were honored at halftime of a game against the Saints. There were twenty-eight of thirty-four of the living players at the game to share that experience. This year, Jeff and I went up to see them on a Sunday night against the Colts.

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Bradley honored at Stratford High

They won that game didn’t they?
It was a good ass-kicking. I loved it.
When you aren’t in Pittsburgh, where do you like to watch the games?
At home. I have two big-screen televisions that I can watch the games on from our kitchen and living rooms. (He wasn’t kidding. When I visited the house, you literally can see a big-screen television any way you look in their main living area. He even has one on the porch, if he needs to go out there to watch on his own).
Can the Steelers win the Super Bowl this upcoming season?
I think that way every year. Come on man! Hell yeah! Think team first guys.
Do you have any favorite players on the current team?
Big Ben (Roethlisberger) for sure. He has always been under-rated. He is solid, smart, and fundamentally and mentally strong. James Harrison is a freak of nature, a real beast. I love seeing him keep coming back at his age.
What is different about the game today than when you played?
Well number one, the players now are so much bigger and faster. I wouldn’t say they are tougher! There is a lot of specialization now. We used to block back, tackle below the knees and clothesline for tackles. For good reasons, they got rid of a lot of that. It’s still a dangerous game. You have to love it!
Do you have any great memories of Coach Noll or the Rooney family?
We won that first Super Bowl for “The Chief” Art Rooney. He was a great man. The Rooney’s are class acts for their benevolence and kindness. Coach Noll was a true genius and renaissance man. He knew more about classical music and wine than football. I was at the U.S. Open golf tournament in Pinehurst when he passed away, and I got to go up for the funeral.

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What was it like playing on the greatest defense of all time?
You know, we knew we were good back then. Once we put on our helmets, we knew another team couldn’t beat us. Obviously we won a hell of a lot more than we lost. Coach Knoll was such a great coach because he surrounded himself with an exemplary coaching staff. We knew we couldn’t be beat!

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5 thoughts on “Ed Bradley: Famous Winston-Salemite

  1. Outstanding, hard nosed football player that swings a pretty good golf stick. A great supporter of the Folds of Honor Foundation and charity golf tournaments hosted at Dataw Island. you have a tee time-let me know when you are in the area. Glenn

  2. Had the opportunity to meet Ed Bradley at the SHS celebration. He is a first class individual, a great motivator and a role model for all HS student athletes.

    Thank you for everything.

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