By David King, University Marketing
Record-setting athlete excels in the classroom, too
When he was an 18-year-old kid and his head was filled with dreams of major league baseball, Bradley George had a plan.
When he was 21 and those dreams were fading quickly, he had a plan.
And when he enrolled at Texas State as a 22-year-old freshman on one of the odder football scholarships in school history, he still had a plan.
Education. Always education.
That plan is why the graduate of New Braunfels Canyon High School, former professional baseball player and record-breaking quarterback at Texas State, will earn his master’s degree in geography in December 2010.
“My mom was a teacher, and she stressed education,” George says of his mother, who taught elementary school in the Comal Independent School District. “So did my dad. He didn’t finish college, but he always stressed the importance of an education.”
George had wanted to come to school in San Marcos his senior year at Canyon, since Texas State was the only university that was going to let him play both college baseball and football. But then the Cincinnati Reds selected him in the 12th round of the Major League Baseball draft. At 6-foot-5 and 200-plus pounds, he had the look of a big-league pitcher, and he had shown enough potential at Canyon to pique interest of the team’s scouts.
He agreed to sign, but with one caveat: If he decided to go back to college, the Reds would pay for four years of education.
“It was in the back of my mind that if in four or five years, I’m not moving along (toward the major leagues) at a reasonable pace, then I was going to play college football,” he says.
He pitched for five seasons, including parts of three years in Billings, Mont., in the far-flung Pioneer League, but never progressed beyond the low minor leagues. His advancement was slowed by a series of arm injuries, and as he was nursing another one at the end of the summer of 2004, he came to a decision: It was time to try something new.
George started looking around at college football programs across the south, aiming to play quarterback in a passing-dominated offense. He came to San Marcos more or less as a courtesy to an old acquaintance, then-coach David Bailiff, and took a look around at the university that was closest to his home, his parents and most of his relatives, as well as his heart.
“The day Coach Bailiff called me was one of the best days of my life,” he says. “I was leaving to go play somewhere else.”
He enrolled at Texas State that spring.
The 22-Year-Old Freshman
Since the Reds had agreed to pay for him to attend college, George came to the Bobcats football team as a walk-on — a student-athlete not on an athletic scholarship. And as someone who had worked in the building trades as a teenager, he quickly found and chose the university’s construction technology major, even though it typically was a five-year program.
“Being an older student gave me a completely different perspective,” he says. “It wasn’t the mindset that I was 18 and could hang out until I was 25. When I came here I was 22, almost 23, and it was ‘Hey, guy, you don’t have 10 years to do this.’”
The transition from the life of a minor-league ballplayer, with lots of free time and mind-numbingly long road trips, to college student wasn’t easy.
“I was really worried about it,” he says. “I made good grades in high school and all, but since 2000, when I graduated, I don’t think I had read any academic journals or anything like that.
“The first semester, I think I did fine. But I was worried about it, and I didn’t do much else but study. I was hitting the books pretty hard.”
It wasn’t long, though, before he was hitting his stride. After sitting out as a redshirt freshman his first year, he was named the team’s starting quarterback for the 2006 season. His teammates elected him as one of the team’s captains, an honor usually reserved for players with experience on the field, not just in life. And they re-elected him three more times.
“He owns many of our passing records, but to me, to have been elected captain all four years is his most-amazing stat,” says Bobcats head football coach Brad Wright. “It shows just how much his teammates thought of him and the leadership he exhibited.”
The Records Fall
As the leader of the Bobcats’ prolific offense, George wound up breaking virtually all of the school career records for passing, from completion percentage to total yards to touchdown passes. His senior season, he was named the Southland Conference offensive player of the year, throwing for 3,121 yards and 23 touchdowns.
That 2009 season also marked the third time he was named to the SLC academic all-conference team, and he was chosen as the conference’s football student-athlete of the year — while working on his master’s degree in geography.
Thanks to his perseverance, George had finished his five-year undergraduate program in four years, giving him the opportunity to start on an advanced degree while on a football scholarship his last year with the team.
“That was one of the toughest years I’ve ever had,” he says of fall 2009. “I was taking nine hours of grad school courses, and my classes had pretty long papers due at the end of them.
“Right near the end of the semester, when we were getting ready for week 10 or 11, those papers started coming due. That made life pretty hectic. At that point, if I had any hair, it would have been falling out.”
But the work got done.
“He was distracted by non-academic activity in his world . . . but he came to class ready to learn,” says Dr. Ron Hagelman of the Department of Geography, George’s professor for his research design class. “He was a strong participant in a strong group of graduate students.”
Without the distractions of playing quarterback — which George says is like having a demanding, full-time job — he has progressed enough on his course work to graduate in December 2010.
“I had a lot of help,” he says. “With the advising center and the people who are in place to help you be successful, you almost have no choice but to do the work. A lot of the credit goes to those people.”
Having a plan didn’t hurt.