LSU: Bradford

A couple of varsity basketball players were holding a dunk contest when the Muskegon High football team's starting right tackle lumbered into the gymnasium.

The players passed a basketball to the lineman along with a challenge: Dunk the ball! Dunk it!

Anthony Bradford, already a towering 6-foot-5, 355-pounds as a sophomore, eyed the goal. Although he played center for the sub-varsity teams, he'd never dunked before.

Bradford dribbled. Leaped. Slammed the ball through the hoop with his right hand.

"I did my thing and flushed it," Bradford recalled.

The LSU signee is used to doing things that make people in the Michigan harbor town gape.

Bradford pancaked enough defenders to pave Muskegon toward three consecutive Division 3 state championship appearances, including a title in 2017.

He benched 225 pounds a camp-leading 31 times at the Rivals Challenge last summer — a total that would have ranked within the top five in last year's NFL combine.

And just last weekend, Bradford's mother, Latoya, saw him shoveling snow out of a neighbor's yard in blustery, 14-degree weather.

In shorts.

Can't see video below? Click here.

Muskegon's head football coach, Shane Fairfield, doesn't want to say Bradford is a "once-in-a-lifetime athlete." He hopes to have seven more Bradford's come through the state's winningest football school, which borders the east side of Lake Michigan.

But not even the 11.2 inches of snow that's cancelled most of school in the two weeks since national signing day can block Bradford from leaving for Louisiana come June.

In Baton Rouge, Bradford will join a 2019 recruiting class that aims to bolster a Tigers offensive line that struggled last season, ranking 106th nationally with 35 total sacks allowed.

Along with Southern Lab's Kardell Thomas, the No. 4 offensive guard according to 247Sports, Bradford and Thomas could line up next to each other as LSU's right guard and right tackle as early as this year.

The two players are already close friends, and Bradford largely credits Thomas — the de facto bandleader of the 2019 recruiting class — as the reason he committed to LSU last May. Thomas said they met at an all-star camp in Atlanta and bonded over "talking noise to the other guys."

“We’re not playing any games," Thomas said. "Anthony’s so big and agile, he can’t be stopped. We'll have just double teams that can’t be stopped with two guys that can move.”

Bradford was one of the first players LSU offensive line coach James Cregg recruited, after LSU head coach Ed Orgeron hired Cregg away from the Los Angeles Chargers in December 2017.

Fairfield said Cregg called him "out of the wind" and said somebody had turned him on to Bradford. Fairfield called Bradford in from his workout, handed him the phone, and Cregg offered the tackle a scholarship.

Fairfield said that over the course of Bradford's recruitment, Cregg said that LSU had Bradford ranked the No. 1-rated offensive tackle on their recruiting board — although 247Sports and ESPN had him placed as a top 15 offensive guard.

"Coach Orgeron has said the same thing," Fairfield said. "He's said, 'This is one of the best players I've ever seen. The ability, feet and just downright athleticism.' They really like him and think he's definitely a special kid that will be playing at the next level."

Back when Bradford signed during December's early signing period, LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said the coaching staff "went all the way to Michigan" to get "exactly what we need on the offensive line."

In fact, Bradford will be the first high school player from Michigan to sign with LSU since former offensive tackle Joseph Barksdale signed out of Detroit in 2007.

Bradford will be Fairfield's first player to play for LSU, which won out over other Southeastern Conference schools like Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.

Michigan never offered Bradford a scholarship, which Fairfield said left the Muskegon coaching staff "scratching their heads;" but Latoya said her son's ready to leave the cold winters behind.

Latoya said Cregg even drove two hours through a snowstorm from Detroit to their house a few weeks ago to check in on the family.

"They are dedicated," she said. "They're going to be there for my son."

Latoya raised Bradford and his two sisters as a single mother. A self-described "hard-nosed parent," she guided her children closely in a community where "there's a lot of violence and guns."

She debunked the notion that Bradford needed to accept early responsibilities since he was the only male at home.

LSU: Bradford family

LSU signee Anthony Bradford, 17, and his younger sister Brianna, 16. Bradford is the middle child of three siblings, with an older sister, Marian, 19.

"I wanted to make sure Anthony didn't have that type of pressure on him," Latoya said. "It's not a 'man of the house,' household. A woman can raise a man."

She had her own hurdles to face during childhood. The second of five children, she said her father was incarcerated and her mother was addicted to drugs.

"When you grow up in an environment like that," Latoya said, "you can either go there go somewhere completely opposite."

She enrolled Bradford in little league football so that he would have positive male role models, and when he entered elementary school, she had him join the "Gentlemen's Club," where young boys learned etiquette and were required to wear dress shirts and ties.

'Who can do edits?' Inside the underground world of college recruiting graphic design

Now, Bradford said, due to his bruising build, he's become his block's designated snow shoveler. 

"Any time there's something that needs to be picked up or moved or hauled, people always call and say, 'Hey, can Tony come over?'" Fairfield said. "People always try to get him involved, because they know it's not an issue when it comes to picking stuff up."

There certainly won't be much snow to shovel in Louisiana; but Latoya said Cregg's serious demeanor is one of the reasons she has eased to the idea of Bradford moving 1,100 miles to Louisiana.

"(Cregg) plays no games," she said. "And I love that."

Bradford has only visited LSU's campus once, during the Tigers' spring game last year. The family will visit again for this year's spring game on April 6.

Recruits generally experience gamedays on official visits to campuses during the football season. But Bradford said his one visit to Baton Rouge was enough for it to feel like home.

He laughed when he considered his first gameday experience in Tiger Stadium would be when he dressed out as an official player in September.

"It's going to be a night to remember," Bradford said. "I know that."