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Terry Bradshaw Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame

Terry Bradshaw

Terry Bradshaw played 14 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is currently a football analyst and co-host of Fox NFL Sunday. In a six-year span, he won four Super Bowl titles with Pittsburgh (1974, 1975, 1978 and 1979), becoming the first quarterback to do so, and led the Steelers to eight AFC Central championships. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989, his first year of eligibility.

A tough competitor, Bradshaw had a powerful – albeit at times erratic – arm and called his own plays throughout his football career. His physical skills and on-the-field leadership played a major role in Pittsburgh Steelers history. During his career, he passed for more than 300 yards in a game only seven times, but three of those performances came in the post-season, and two of those in Super Bowls. In four career Super Bowl appearances he passed for 932 yards and 9 touchdowns, both Super Bowl records at the time of his retirement. In 19 postseason games he completed 261 passes for 3,833 yards.

Terry Bradshaw was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, the second of three sons of Bill and Novis Bradshaw. He attended Woodlawn High School and led the Knights to the 1965 AAA High School Championship game where they lost to the Sulphur Tors 12-9. While at Woodlawn, he set a national record for throwing the javelin 245 feet. His exploits earned him a spot in the Sports Illustrated feature Faces In The Crowd.

Bradshaw decided to attend Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana. He has much affinity for his alma mater. He was a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He was active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and spoke before many athletic banquets and other gatherings.

In 1969, he was considered by most pro scouts to be the most outstanding college football player. As a junior, he amassed 2,890 total yards, ranking #1 in the NCAA, and led his team to a 9-2 record and a 33-13 win over Akron in the Rice Bowl. In his senior season, he gained 2,314 yards, ranking third in the NCAA, and led his team to an 8-2 record. His decrease in production was mainly because his team played only ten games that year, and he was taken out of several games in the second half because his team had built up a huge lead. As quarterback, Bradshaw threw his passes principally to teammates Larry C. Brewer (1948–2003) of Minden, the offensive end, and Thomas Allen "Tommy" Spinks (1948–2007), the split end who had also been Bradshaw's Woodlawn High School teammate. As a result, Brewer and Spinks were recorded among the top pass receivers in Louisiana Tech history. In 1996, Bradshaw was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Terry Bradshaw was the first player selected in the 1970 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers; the Steelers drew the first pick in the draft after winning a coin flip tiebreaker with the Chicago Bears due to both teams having identical 1-13 records in 1969. (It should be noted, though, that by modern NFL tiebreaking rules, the Steelers would have automatically been awarded the pick anyway since the Bears' one win came against the Steelers in Week 8. The coin toss is now the last of seven tiebreaking options to determining draft position, which has yet to be used on the number one pick. In either case, Bradshaw was hailed at the time as the consensus number one pick, regardless of which team drafted him.

Bradshaw became a starter one year after he was drafted in 1970. During his first several seasons, the 6'3", 215 lb. quarterback was erratic, threw many interceptions (he threw 210 interceptions over the course of his career) and was widely ridiculed by the media for his rural roots and perceived lack of intelligence.

It took Bradshaw a few seasons to adjust to the pro game but once he did, he eventually became the premier quarterback in the NFL, leading the Pittsburgh Steelers to eight AFC Central championships and an unprecedented collection of Super Bowl rings. The Pittsburgh Steelers featured the "Steel Curtain" defense and a powerful running attack led by Franco Harris, but Bradshaw's strong arm gave them the threat of the deep pass, helping to loosen opposing defenses. In 1972, he threw the pass leading to the "Immaculate Reception", among the most famous plays in NFL history.

Bradshaw temporarily lost the starting job to Joe Gilliam in 1974, but Bradshaw took over again during the regular season and in the 1974 AFC Championship Game against the Oakland Raiders, his fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Lynn Swann proved to be the winning score in a 24-13 victory. In the Steelers’ 16-6 Super Bowl IX victory over the Minnesota Vikings that followed, Bradshaw completed 9 of 14 passes and his fourth-quarter touchdown pass put the game out of reach and helped take the Steelers to their first Super Bowl victory.

Bradshaw acknowledged in his first autobiography, Man of Steel, that by 1974, he felt as if he was bottoming out. His first marriage to Melissa Babich had failed, his shoulder had been injured, and he was often sullen and depressed. The turnaround came when, according to his memoir, Bradshaw, already a born-again Christian, had a revelation: "I had separated myself from God. I lived only for Terry Bradshaw, not for God. I tried to be one of the boys and went to every honky-tonk I could find and chased women and behaved in a way that was totally alien to anything I had ever known before … my whole life was out of control … I was trying to be someone else and was doing a rotten job of it."

What happened to Bradshaw amounted to a second "conversion" experience. "I just put my head in my hands and began to cry and tremble all over and finally I blurted out, 'Here I am, God. I've tried to handle it all by myself and I just can't get the job done. So I'm placing my life in Your hands. I need some peace of mind and I know You can give it to me.'" The quarterback recalls feeling suddenly "stronger mentally and physically.… Being a starting quarterback didn't matter.… What mattered was that I was myself again and I was determined to stay that way."

In Super Bowl X following the 1975 season, Bradshaw threw for 209 yards, most of them to Lynn Swann, as the Steelers beat the Dallas Cowboys, 21-17. His 64-yard touchdown pass to Swann (that travelled roughly 70 yards in the air)-- which was released a split-second before defensive tackle Larry Cole flattened him causing a serious concussion—late in the fourth quarter is considered one of the greatest passes in NFL history.

Neck and wrist injuries in 1976 forced Bradshaw to miss four games. He was sharp in a 40-14 victory over the Baltimore Colts, completing 14 of 18 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns, but the Steelers' hopes of a three-peat ended with a 24-7 loss to Oakland in the AFC Championship game.

Bradshaw had his finest season in 1978 when he was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player by the Associated Press after a season in which he completed 207 of 368 passes for 2,915 yards and a league-leading 28 touchdown passes. He was also named All-Pro and All-AFC that year.

Before Super Bowl XIII, a Steelers-Cowboys rematch, Cowboys linebacker Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson famously ridiculed Bradshaw by saying, "He couldn't spell 'Cat' if you spotted him the 'c' and the 'a'." Bradshaw got his revenge by winning the Most Valuable Player award, completing 17 of 30 passes for a then-record 318 yards and four touchdowns in a 35-31 win. Years later, Henderson, who struggled for years to conquer drug addiction, admitted he was high on cocaine at the time of the interview. Bradshaw has in later years made light of the ridicule with quips such as "it's football, not rocket science."

Bradshaw won his second straight Super Bowl MVP in 1979 in Super Bowl XIV. He passed for 309 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 31-19 win over the Los Angeles Rams. Bradshaw also shared the Sports Illustrated magazine's "Sportsmen of the Year" award with Willie Stargell that season.

After two seasons of missing the playoffs, Bradshaw played through pain — he needed a cortisone shot before every game because of an elbow injury sustained during training camp — in a strike-shortened 1982 NFL season. He still managed to tie for the most touchdown passes in the league with 17. In a 31-28 playoff loss to the San Diego Chargers, Bradshaw's last postseason game, he completed 28-of-39 passes for 325 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

After undergoing offseason elbow surgery, Bradshaw was idle for the first 14 games of the 1983 NFL season. Then on December 10 against the New York Jets, he felt a pop in his elbow while throwing his final pass, a ten yard touchdown to Calvin Sweeney in the second quarter of the Steelers' 34-7 win. Bradshaw later left the game and never played again. The two touchdowns Bradshaw threw in what would be the final NFL game played at Shea Stadium (and the last NFL game in New York City to date) allowed him to finish his career with two more touchdowns (212) than interceptions (210) for his career. In his 14-season career, Bradshaw completed 2,025 of 3,901 passes for 27,989 yards and 212 touchdowns. He also rushed 444 times for 2,257 yards and 32 touchdowns. He was 107-51 as the starting quarterback and the Steelers reached the playoffs 10 times. His career postseason record as a starter was 14-5. He was also selected to play in three Pro Bowl games.

While the Steelers no longer officially retire uniform numbers (with the exception of Ernie Stautner's #70), they have not reissued Bradshaw's #12 since he retired, and it is generally understood that no Steeler will wear that number again.

In 1999, he was ranked number 44 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.

 
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