By Josh Beavers
Note: This is the first in my new series of stories about people who go above and beyond to help our local schools.
I put out a message last week looking for suggestions on deserving individuals who needed a little recognition for working tirelessly behind the scenes without financial incentive to help our local schools. In other words, these folks don’t make any money. Instead their payment comes from the success they help young men and women achieve in and out of the classroom. On tests and on athletic fields. In school and later in life.
I was given so many names, so this is going to be a nice series that could span many months so long as the names keep on coming. But one really stood out among the other in this first batch of nominations.
One message of many: “John Bradford (JB) would be the one I would do a story on. He is such an inspiration. He loves our young boys in Minden. It goes beyond weight training and getting them ready for football. He talks to them and encourages them in every aspect of their lives. He CARES about them. He pushes them to do their best in school before anything else. He is there for them if they need to talk about anything. He is their biggest fan on and off the field. He helps these kids stay away from the violence and gang life in Minden. He is an awesome role model. He is a Godly man and is a mentor for these kids here in Minden. He is Uncle JB to these kids. He is family to us and always there for anything.”
I was intrigued and immediately reached out to Uncle JB for an interview.
Jonathan Bradford was born and raised in Minden and is married to Lashanta Love Bradford. He is the father of three children, the oldest of which is 23 and a resident of Baltimore. His other two children currently attend Minden High where they participate in school sports programs.
He has done right by his kids and his wife, and he now realizes that he has had a chance to do so much more for his community through such simple means.
“I started coaching youth league football 16 years ago at Minden Rec, and that’s when I realized God was using me to reach young people through sports,” Bradford told me. “After three years of going undefeated in youth football, I bumped into Mr. Butch Williams.”
Williams, who has since passed away, was the superintendent of Webster Parish schools at the time. He asked Bradford if he would be interested in helping the freshman football team at Minden High.
“I was speechless but accepted the offer,” he said. “For eight years I coached freshman football and youth league until my role on the Minden High coaching staff increased with the hiring of head coach Spencer Heard.”
Bradford said the two bonded from Day 1.
“I’m going into year 12 with the Crimson Tide as an assistant defensive coach under coach Alan Ensminger,” he said. “He has been a great mentor to me all 11 years. Also, Coach Greg Williams and Mrs. Robin Tucker played a big role in my transition to high school sports.”
Bradford said in his youth, he always dreamed of playing football for the Crimson Tide. That became a reality under head coach Ronnie Whatley.
“After the sudden death of my mother my sophomore year, my family relocated to Grambling where my brother and I lived with our sister,” he said.
Bradford and his brother both became All-state football players for the Grambling Lab kittens. It was there he met Coach Greg Williams, who served as a surrogate father figure for the young Bradford.
But even though he was a Grambling man, Minden High never left his heart.
“I will never forget the two guys that made me better as a person as well as an athlete, coach Elliott Gilbert and coach Stephret Williams,” he said. “Those guys are the reason I enjoy helping all the young people in our Minden community.”
Bradford said he uses football to build relationships with young people while talking about life and overcoming adversity.
“I train athletes in the off season and mentor year around hoping to help young boys become productive young men,” he said.
As for a most memorable moment as a coach, he said it would be the last play against Benton in a district championship game.
“We could kick a field goal to tie or go for 2 to win it,” he said. “In front on a sold-out crowd, Coach Heard decided to go for two, and Toay Rivette threw a pass to Tarvaris Edward to win the game.”
As for a memory he cherishes as a player, he said it would be playing Southwood when he hauled in 9 passes from quarterback Christopher Johnson for over 150 yards.
Bradford has mentored many young people over the past 12 years, and he looks forward to the opportunity to help so many more. He sees his role as one given to him by God and that he wishes he could go back and have someone talk to him when he was a teenager the same way he helps these young people now.
“For the Kids” is a series of regular feature stories published in the Webster Parish Journal. If you have a recommendation of someone who needs to be recognized for their work with our local school children, please reach out to Josh Beavers either through Facebook or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE