Rice will be missing a big part of its defense after senior safety Travis Bradshaw suffered a career-ending neck injury during the first week of preseason camp.
This is a huge blow for Rice’s secondary, which counted on Bradshaw’s big hits to make a consistent impact on the field.
But that is a one dimensional way of looking at the situation. In reality, a student-athlete suffered a devastating injury, which took away his ability to play the game he loves.
Looking back on the day, it was all kind of a blur for him as he suffered the injury, which he originally felt was just a minor nuisance.
“I just thought I had strained some muscles,” he said. “I didn’t think it was a big deal.”
But team doctors urged him to get an X-ray, which revealed a cracked vertebrae.
Even then, he figured he would still get to play again, until doctors explained the extent of the injury. He then realized his playing career was finished.
“That whole day was unreal,” he said. “I was starting to realize what that meant.”
The news of Bradshaw’s injury is a big blow to the team, the staff and to fans of Rice football. But in response, the community has rallied around him.
This includes his teammate, defensive end Scott Solomon, who has decided to switch his jersey number to 35 this year to honor Bradshaw — that way, number 35 will get to see the field all season after all.
“I want to wear his jersey this year just as a tribute to him and to honor him for everything he has done for this team,” Solomon said. “He has done so much for us. He is still a part of the family.”
It isn’t surprising to see Solomon step up and honor his teammate like this because he knows what it feels like to sit out a season with an injury. He missed all of 2010 after breaking his leg early in training camp of that year, bringing him back in 2011 for his fifth season with the Owls.
Solomon acknowledges that what he went through is only a fraction of what Bradshaw is dealing with because in the end, he had the comfort of knowing he would see the field again.
“It is a lot worse for him because he knows he is not coming back. I knew I would be coming back the next year, and it was still hard for me. I can’t imagine what he is going through right now.”
Solomon is perhaps Rice’s best defensive player, and it is appropriate that he be the one to step up and honor Bradshaw, the team’s defense captain, in this way.
Though, the tribute is not only for the player that Bradshaw was on the field — for Solomon, it is a way to honor the person that Bradshaw is on and off the field and the work ethic that he displayed on a day-to-day basis.
“I have so much respect for him as a person and as a player.” Solomon said. “He is a very disciplined player as well as a very disciplined person. He has worked so hard in every aspect of his life. That is why I respect him so much.”
“He is the kind of person that will work through anything to be successful and get to the top. That is what made him such a good player and that is why I want to honor him this year in this way.”
Bradshaw isn’t allowed to be on the sideline with his teammates but will still be there every game to support them from the stands or in the press box, always with a clipboard in order to help his coaches.
Bradshaw is on pace to graduate in December with a degree in chemical engineering and will exert the same kind of effort he put forth on the field into the classroom.
That same effort will also go into cheering on his Owls on the field every day, just as they have done throughout this whole ordeal with him.
“The support has been unbelievable,” Bradshaw said. “My teammates know how much the game meant to me and how much I wanted to be out there.”