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Editor's note: This is the second in a three-part series on student-athlete family ties.
By Gary Brown
Husson University grads Brock and Shelby Bradford were typical, high-achieving student-athletes. They mastered multiple sports, graduated with two postgraduate degrees, earned national academic awards, set records, led statistical categories and won championships.
OK, so maybe that’s a little more than just typical.
Oh, they were also married – to each other.
OK, so maybe Brock and Shelby Bradford weren’t typical at all.
“I suppose being married is something that doesn’t happen a lot in college, especially not with two athletes,” Brock Bradford said. “At least that’s what we’ve been told.”
The two met at a church retreat during the summer of 2003 and as Brock says, “just started hanging out as friends.” They exchanged vows three summers ago when Brock was entering his sophomore year at Husson and Shelby was about to be a junior.
And in typical student-athlete fashion – paying attention to details and priorities – all the planning and the ceremony itself took place in time not to interfere with preseason practice that fall.
“We were engaged for 37 days,” Shelby said. But of course, who’s counting?
Whether it’s counting or courting, the Bradfords were a hit throughout their college careers at the 1,800-student school in Bangor, Maine.
Shelby, who’s one board exam away from being a certified occupational therapist, graduated with a 3.83 grade-point average and earned a master’s degree in occupational therapy and a bachelor’s in psychology. She excelled not just in one or two sports but three – soccer, basketball and lacrosse – one for each season.
She was a two-time North Atlantic Conference player of the year in basketball and set school records in lacrosse and soccer. Based on her contributions to the three Husson programs, voters in a Bangor Daily News poll selected her “as the ultimate athlete” in the state of Maine.
Meanwhile, husband Brock was a three-time all-conference selection in basketball before graduating with a 3.97 GPA, a bachelor’s in accounting and a master’s in business.
But even he acknowledges that there was little he could do to keep pace with his wife.
“Nothing I could have done would have accomplished that,” he said.
Brock Bradford excelled in basketball
Yet, neither Brock nor Shelby regards themselves as extraordinary.
“We’ve really tried to do everything to the best of our abilities and the way that we thought was right,” Brock said. “We felt we were called to spend the rest of our lives together and weren’t interested in a whole lot of waiting around.
“Hopefully what people see is our love for God and commitment to doing our best – it’s certainly not because we are extraordinary or special. We just try to do our best.”
Athletics were prominent in both their families, which Brock said has carried over in their wanting to do the best they can in everything they do – whether in the classroom or in sports or in their marriage. “We want to give 110 percent in everything,” he said.
Participating in college sports led to some long bus trips and late nights, but both of the Bradfords say it was time well spent – particularly Shelby, who spent her first year in college at Division I Maine before transferring to Division III Husson.
Shelby Bradford set school records in lacrosse
“It was a great switch for me because I was able to play all my sports at Husson,” she said. That includes lacrosse, which she took up after being married.
“When I picked up that third sport in the spring (instead of working), Brock was like, don’t worry about it, just play and have fun – you’ll have a lot of opportunity to work in the years to come. We support each other very well,” Shelby said.
As for being married, she said her teammates took it more in stride than his.
“The girls were cute with it – they thought it was fine – but the guys had other opinions,” Shelby said.
Brock agreed that he endured some jokes, albeit in good fun.
“We were able to gain the respect of teammates and coaches – other than constantly hearing, ‘Oh, Brock, if you were half as good as your wife, we wouldn’t have any problems winning games,’ ” he said.
Brock currently works full time as an accountant for a hotel company about a mile from the couple’s home, which they purchased recently as a fixer-upper. They’ve done much of the work themselves, except for wallpapering, which is notorious for creating domestic stress.
“We’ve chosen to paint, so we’re safe there,” Shelby said.
If the paint job is anything like their careers as student-athletes, the Bradfords likely haven’t missed too many spots.