For many in the NFL, this is a sad time of year — when veteran players come to the realization that they’re reached the end of their playing days and are faced with the prospect of moving on to the next chapter of their lives whether they’re prepared for it or not.
Terry Bradshaw came to that point 31 years ago when an elbow injury ended his Hall of Fame career after 14 seasons and four Super Bowl victories, a feat that remains unsurpassed among quarterbacks.
But the Shreveport native who was the No. 1 pick in the 1970 draft out of Louisiana Tech had already laid the groundwork for what has been a three-decade run as a broadcaster, pitch man and all-around entertainer — enough so that he’s the only football player with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame,
Saturday night, Bradshaw’s contributions to the game, both as a player and afterwards, were recognized as he received the Pete Rozelle Award from the Touchdown Club of New Orleans.
“I’ve been able to do what I love to do and have fun doing it,” Bradshaw said before a sold-out banquet at the Windsor Court. “I guess America just loves successful athletes.
“I’ve been very fortunate.”
Along with Bradshaw, Louisiana-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth received the club’s collegiate award, Lutcher coach Tim Detillier received the high school award and Pelicans radio analyst John DeShazier received the Bob Roesler Media Award.
But it was Bradshaw’s presence that caused the event to be sold out for the first time.
And he delivered regaling the audience with stories about his time both on the field and off.
For Bradshaw, by developing the character of “Terry,” the country bumpkin out of earlier image as someone who was not all that smart.
“When people talked about how stupid I was, it was painful,” he said. “I knew I wasn’t dumb, but I was funny and people love a funny guy.
“So I took that guy and put him out front. It’s paid off pretty well.”
Hudspeth’s award came in recognition of the Ragin Cajuns being only one of two teams in the country to win four straight bowls and at least nine games for the past four seasons after never before reaching a bowl game as an FBS school.
All of that, Hudspeth has obviously raised the expectation level at the school. But at the same time, it has spurred Louisiana-Lafayette to substantially increase its support level.
“We’re finding ways to take things to the next level,” said Hudspeth, whose 2015 team began spring practice last week. “The school has realized how important the exposure has been and it’s been a tremendous experience.”
Almost, Hudspeth added, as getting to meet Bradshaw for the first time.
“He was one of my heroes growing up and the reason I wore No. 12 in high school and college,” he said. “Terry’s the ultimate competitor.
“Four Super Bowls. What else can you ask for?”
Detillier has been in coaching since graduating from college in 1967, all of but six years of it spent at Lutcher. He has more than 250 victories.
“Coaching more than anything else that I know of gives you a way to reach kids,” he said. “That’s what it’s all been about for me.
“It’s why I’m going to keep doing this as long as they will let me.”
Similarly, Bradshaw, now 66, says he has only a general timetable for leaving broadcasting, which for him has included the last 21 years as part of the Fox pregame show.
“I figure I’ve got about 14 years left,” he said. “It’s been like this night has been for me — a blast.”