When the members of the Penn football team are scrounging for extra tickets to provide to friends and family, Bradford Blackmon is the last person they ask.
They know it's hopeless, but sometimes they'll ask him anyway. Usually, Blackmon doesn't even have to respond, "and they're like 'Never mind, we know you need your tickets,'" he said.
For every game he's ever played, since starting on the fifth-grade team at St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Jackson, Miss., Blackmon's father Edward has needed those tickets. He hasn't missed a single one of the roughly 124 games in his son's career.
On the rare occasion that he's late, he's never even missed the end of the first quarter.
It's not that he has a lot of time on his hands. He works as a trial attorney for his self-owned law firm with his wife Barbara and his daughter Janessa. He has also served as a representative in the Mississippi state legislature since 1979.
Before Bradford, now a junior running back for the Quakers, was allowed to play football in fifth grade, he showed off his athleticism on the soccer field. Barbara was the soccer mom, toting him to all his games and practices. But once the football games started, she was not as keen on being a spectator.
"When I started playing football where everyone was trying to hit me, she [told my dad] 'You can take over from here,'" Bradford said, "and he's just never missed one."
Edward's dedication and commitment may be astounding, but his reasons are simple.
"We actually just enjoy doing it, and being a part of whatever he's doing, just being supportive of his endeavors," he said. "Whatever he's doing, good or not so good, we're there."
Bradford never necessarily needed that support to be committed to football. A star three-sport athlete at St. Andrew's (he also played basketball like his dad and ran track in the spring), Bradford was always naturally motivated to play sports. When his father would coach his cousin and his brother Madison in basketball, Bradford would insist on participating.
"The only way to get him off the court was to pick him up and let him put the ball in the basket," Edward recalled.
Though his father's remarkable attendance record did not have a major effect on Bradford's passion for football, he still feels strongly about his dad's dedication.
"There's nothing better than looking up in the stands and knowing your parents are always going to be there in the same spot," he said.
Edward always sits near the 50-yard line, and usually towards the back of the bleachers, "mostly away from people, because my mom would always scream whenever I'd get hit," Bradford said.
With his busy work schedule, Edward sometimes brings his laptop to games, makes conference calls, or talks to clients. His clients don't mind talking to him from the games. In fact, most of them are interested in Bradford's career and often inquire about their lawyer's son.
The busy travel schedule that his career entails has caused him to sometimes come close to missing a game. When he was on a case in Dallas during Bradford's junior year of high school, the trial ran late and he missed his flight. There were no more flights available that would get him back to Jackson in time for the game, so he decided to look into chartering a plane. After trying numerous different companies, he finally found one that had a single plane available.
"Everything had to come together in order for me to make that game," he said. "It was real expensive but I didn't want that to interfere with what we committed ourselves to doing, and that's being at all of his games."
Sometimes he would fly in from New York or even from as far as Los Angeles. Once he even took a 2 a.m. red-eye from L.A. in order to be back in time for a game. Yet he's never thought twice about going that extra mile.
"There's never been a situation where I felt that I had gone to an extraordinary effort to get there and then regretted I did it," he said.
He knows there's been some luck involved in this streak, like with the case in Dallas, so after all this time if he were finally forced to miss a game, he wouldn't be all that upset.
"If it happens then of course I'd be disappointed but I'd look back at all the things I've done for him and I'm sure I'd cheer up," Edward said.
But with only two years left, if he were to suddenly miss a game, Bradford wouldn't let him live it down.
"I'd tell him he should've left earlier," he said. "He can't stop now. If he had missed one back in the day it would've been OK, but if you come this far you've gotta finish it out."Comments powered by Disqus
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