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“I couldn’t live like that:” Packers rookie Carl Bradford’s heart broken by tragedy, but he’s inspired by his hero

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GREEN BAY (WITI) — Green Bay Packers rookie Carl Bradford has his doubters. He’s not tall enough. His arms aren’t long enough. But Bradford knows what he can control — and that’s a heart. A heart broken by tragedy, but inspired by his hero.

“It’s a blessing to do this. I come here smiling every day because I know the great opportunity I’m given and I take advantage of that every day,” Bradford said.

If it sounds like Packers fourth-round draft pick Carl Bradford is a happy camper, it’s because he relishes the chance to play professional football. The defensive end at Arizona State University, turned linebacker, is driven to use his greatest asset in the hopes of tackling a roster spot.

“The thing that a lot of people that catch me, I notice, is my motor. I just keep going and get after the quarterback every play and look to make a play every play,” Bradford said.

Bradford knows that excelling against the greatest players in the world will be a challenge, but he’s already faced a greater one off the field.

In March of 2013, the California native’s life changed forever when his father died of a heart attack in his son’s arms.

“At first it was tragic. That’s all I thought about. I don’t have my father anymore. I mean — it was always sadness, dark days, and then I started to realize I can’t live like that. So I started thinking of having happy thoughts and the good times I had with him and how joyful he always was, and that helps me out a lot. He’s in heaven — one day, where I want to be,” Bradford said.

It’s a mature attitude for a young man two weeks shy of his 22nd birthday.

Roy Bradford was more than Carl’s father. He was his hero.

“It was a best friend relationship. Man, he was my everything. I mean, he taught me everything I know. I mean — little things that you do and you go ‘oh man, I learned that from Pops,'” Bradford said.

The elder Bradford was a tough disciplinarian, but in the end, the two were closer than ever. That gives Carl a calm feeling as he goes forward.

“I’d be in Arizona and he’d call me every night just to talk. Just to hear my voice. He was a proud father and I know he is and that does bring peace to me,” Bradford said.

His deep faith has helped the 6’1″ 252-pound Bradford cope with tragedy. So has the love of Carl’s family members, and a strong desire to share his dreams with them — even as he honors his dad.

“He kind of lived the dream through me as well, and that’s how proud he was. I do it for all my family. I did it for him before he passed away, so that’s my motivation,” Bradford said.

Dad had to be smiling from heaven last September in Tempe when Carl’s Arizona State team beat the Wisconsin Badgers 32-30 in a bizarre finish. That was the game when Badgers quarterback Joel Stave placed the ball on the ground — thinking he had set Wisconsin up for a game-winning field goal. The officials didn’t stop the clock. Time ran out, and the Sun Devils survived.

So does Bradford think it was the right call?

“Of course! We won!” Bradford said.

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