High School Sports

Bradley's move to TB helps Columbia find a new star

Junior DeErik Bradley (11) is following in a long tradition of top tailbacks at Columbia High.
Junior DeErik Bradley (11) is following in a long tradition of top tailbacks at Columbia High.

In the preseason, 5-foot-7, 155-pound junior DeErik Bradley was penciled in as an undersized starter at outside linebacker for Columbia High.

In the blink of an eye, Bradley has gone from undersized linebacker to overachieving tailback.

Switched to tailback when the projected starter was injured, Bradley has rushed for 425 yards and nine touchdowns on 71 carries for the Capitals (4-1).

"We went through the spring thinking Demetri Cureton would be our starter at tailback and that DeErik was going to be a starter at outside linebacker," Columbia coach Kemper Amick said. "Then Demetri had some injury problems in the preseason. DeErik had played some at tailback last year on junior varsity. That's when we first found out he could run and was kind of natural at it. So we moved him there."

Bradley wasted little time in proving that a wise decision.

In his first varsity start at tailback, Bradley tied a school record by rushing for five touchdowns in the Capitals' 41-27 season-opening victory against Hanahan.

He could have broken the record, but Bradley had a 49-yard touchdown run called back because of a penalty.

"He's got a knack for finding the end zone," Amick said. "He seemed to do it so easily that we didn't even really notice that he had scored five touchdowns until a couple days after the game."

If Bradley's success surprised the coaching staff, it surprised Bradley even more.

"I've always played some at tailback since the ninth grade, but I didn't expect to have the success I've had," Bradley said. "It's surprised me a lot. I've just tried to listen to the coaches and go hard every day in practice, and it has just sort of worked out."

Amick remembers his first introduction to Bradley and admits he hardly thought he was looking at a budding star at tailback.

"He had moved here from Georgia, and I remember his mother brought him out here when we were working out in the summer," Amick said. "She introduced him to us and said, 'He loves football and he's going into the ninth grade.' We took him in, but I never figured he'd be like this."

Amick said Bradley has offset his lack of size with a solid work ethic.

"He's not big, but he's very put together," Amick said. "He has worked hard on the weights, and he's very strong."

Amick compares Bradley to former Columbia High standout Stanley Taylor, another undersized tailback. Taylor earned Shrine Bowl honors as a senior.

"DeErik is very similar to Stanley, and Stanley had very quick feet and the best field vision of any player I've ever seen," Amick said.

Bradley may be the next in line of a proud tradition of Columbia High tailbacks that also includes former USC starter Mike Davis.

Bradley's five-touchdown, record-tying performance in the opener is also shared by Taylor and Davis.

"I feel honored, really honored, to share a record with those guys," Bradley said. "My goal is to follow in the footsteps of Mike Davis. Every day at practice, I think about Mike Davis."

Bradley's success has dovetailed nicely with the success of the Capitals, whose 4-1 start, Amick candidly admits, he did not foresee.

"Based on what I saw in the spring, I didn't think we'd win two games," Amick said. "I wasn't poor mouthing. I was just being honest. We had some offensive linemen who sort of transformed themselves over the summer, and then you just couldn't have predicted what DeErik is doing.

"You know what's great? We have Cureton back, so now we feel like we've got two very good tailbacks."

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Video highlights from Columbia's 45-0 win over Brookland-Cayce in a game played at Airport High School.

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