The man who helped usher James Bradberry from small college football to the NFL says the Giants are getting a “dream” of a player in free agency.
Chris Hatcher, head coach at Samford University in Alabama since Bradberry’s senior season there in 2015, told Newsday that the free agent acquisition who will at some point sign a three-year, $45 million contract with the Giants now that the league year has officially begun, is a prototype for his position.
“With James’ height and his size and his overall athletic ability and natural instinct, he’s a dream of what people are looking for to play corner,” Hatcher said on Wednesday. “He looks like a linebacker or a safety.”
But at 6-1 and 212 pounds, he also has the agility to lock up on opposing receivers.
“I mean, he’s been starting at corner in the NFL for four years,” Hatcher scoffed. “He’s played at a high level for quite some time and those receivers that he had to go against each and every week in the division he was in [the NFC South] is not an easy task.”
There is one thing, however, that many elite cornerbacks in the NFL do that Bradberry does not.
At a position that generally brings out the bravado from players, whether it be on-the-field trash talk or social media jabs, Bradberry stays away from the action. He’s more comfortable getting in someone’s face as part of press coverage than he is doing so after a play.
Even as he developed in his four years with the Panthers, from an unassuming second-round pick who was given a chance to earn a starting job vacated by the departure of the king of such hijinks — Josh Norman — to one of the NFL’s more respected coverage players, he did not change. He would perform his offseason workouts in a public pool in Charlotte, surrounded by senior citizens taking their early morning dip. Flashy is for other people.
“Very unassuming guy,” Hatcher said. “Of course he’s very confident. You have to be to play at the high level that he plays at each week. But very quiet, very humble, and a really good person . . . Always did what he was supposed to do. A real quiet guy. Just showed up and did his work every day and did it very well.”
Perhaps there is no better illustration of that going-about-his-business persona than the story of the night he was drafted by the Panthers in 2016. When Dave Gettleman, then the general manager in Carolina, called to say he was selecting him, Bradberry was in the bathroom. Fixing his mother’s toilet.
He relayed that funny story, of performing some home maintenance while receiving a call that would change his life, to reporters in Charlotte later that night. Even then, though, it was hard to read Bradberry.
“I’m not a very emotional guy,” he told them. “I try to keep everything bottled in but I’m very excited on the inside. You might not be able to tell by the way I’m talking right now.”
That’s the player — and the person — that Gettleman got to know in their shared time in Carolina. And it’s the Bradberry that Hatcher got to know at Samford.
Unchanged. Undaunted. Unaffected.
“A real quiet guy,” Hatcher said. “Just showed up and did his work every day and did it very well.”
If the Giants get that from Bradberry, it would be a dream come true.