RHS grad inducted into UNA Hall of Fame
FLORENCE – When Kevin Bradford graduated from Russellville High School in 1977 he didn't feel that the University of North Alabama tennis program was interested in local players, so he enrolled at Calhoun Community College.
Eventually, he and his doubles partner at Calhoun transferred to UNA and helped lead the Lions to the Gulf South Conference title in 1981. He will be inducted to the UNA Athletic Hall of Fame Oct. 25, becoming only the second UNA tennis player to earn the honor.
"When I got there they had a good nucleus of players, but they were not used to winning," Bradford said. "My doubles partner and I were used to winning and it was hard to get their mindset to change."
While Bradford continued to record the wins, his teammates gained confidence and began to win. Soon the Lions had a GSC title – still the only one by the mens program in school history – and missed the national tournament by a single vote. Bradford was named the team's most valuable player.
"The Gulf South Conference was different back then," Bradford said. "You had Jacksonville State, Troy State and the University of Tennessee-Martin in the conference. Now, they are all Division I programs."
He also said those schools dominated the conference in tennis, which makes the title special. He was also surprised that it has been the only mens title UNA has won.
"It's kind of amazing. There have been a lot of good players before and after I was there," Bradford said. "It feels good to know we did that."
During his UNA career Bradford had a 48-20 record in singles and a 46-15 record in doubles. He earned a GSC individual championship in No. 3 singles and a GSC doubles title in the No. 2 doubles slot, earning All-GSC honors.
Joining Bradford in the UNA Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008 are Ande Jones, Greg Bowles, Steve Martin Gerald Smith and Merle West. With this year's class there are now 82 inductees in the UNA Hall of Fame.
Bradford returned to UNA in 1990 to coach the cross country and womens tennis teams.
He said he enjoyed coaching, but it required much more work than he was expecting.
"During my first year (the tennis team) had a lot of decent players, but I could not figure out how to get them to play as well as they could," Bradford said. "The second year, we were not as good talent wise, but they worked hard."
The team's efforts led to a good season and GSC Coach of the Year honors for Bradford.
"They earned that for me," Bradford said. "I didn't do it. They did it for me."
Bradford left coaching and joined State Farm Insurance Company in 1993. He began his new career as a claims adjuster and worked his way up to a position as an agent.
He has been based in Winfield since 1999, where he is involved in several community activities.
He is the vice chairman of the Community Development Foundation, president of the Chamber of Commerce and is on the board of the Kemp Foundation – a program that provides financial assistance to civic and community organizations. He is also a deacon at his church.
Bradford said he felt it was his duty to stay involved in the community because he wanted to help carry his weight to make Winfield a successful town.
"When you are in a small community, you need to be active for the betterment of the community," Bradford said.
While being involved in so many activities takes up much of his time, he still finds a way to be involved with his family as well. His oldest daughter is a Crimsonette in the Million Dollar Band at the University of Alabama, his middle daughter is a cheerleader at Winfield High School and his youngest daughter is a middle school cheerleader.
With so much on his schedule, Bradford is not able to spend time on the tennis court like he did a few years ago.
"I stay busy with all these girls and civic activities," Bradford said. "I have all of this and still have to work, so tennis has had to suffer."
While he has not played regularly since 1999, Bradford is getting the itch to play again. He said he has several friends that are trying to get him to participate in tournaments and he is seriously considering picking up his racket again.
Future opponents should watch out. Playing a hall-of-famer can be tough.