The Best Missouri Tiger Athlete Of All-Time is an Easy Choice

When former Georgia offensive lineman Matt Stinchcomb was asked who he thought were the best athletes to have played football in the SEC, it sparked a conversation between Bird and myself.

Stinchcomb opted for former Alabama linebacker Derrick Thomas and former Georgia running back Herschel Walker. Thomas and Walker were solid choices, but Bird and I disagreed. Take a listen to the podcast if you haven’t already.

This conversation sparked an internal conversation of my own. I’m a Missouri fan and I began wondering who the best athlete to play at Missouri was. This is all based on opinion. Nothing purely objective here. But here’s who that player is to me.

My choice is Phil Bradley.

Bradley played both baseball and football at Missouri. As the quarterback for Missouri, he was the Offensive Player of the Year three times and he held the record for total offense which stood for 10 years. Bradley was also half of a talented Missouri backfield that included James Wilder. That duo contributed to some great wins including victories against nationally ranked teams from Notre Dame and Nebraska. And as noted by others, just imagine what Bradley could have accomplished in the spread offenses of today.

I became a Phil Bradley fan long before I knew about the University of Missouri. Before I followed college football and discovered the Missouri Tigers, I was a rabid baseball fan. My favorite team was the Baltimore Orioles and Bradley played for my Orioles from 1989-1990. See? I guess I was destined to be a Missouri football fan.

As a professional baseball player, Bradley was a solid hitter and dependable fielder. Not spectacular but certainly good enough to have a seven-year career in the major leagues. 1985 was arguably his best season as a baseball player as he was selected to the All-Star team and hit a career-high 26 home runs.

In a different era of sports, Bradley easily could have played both professional baseball and football. But in the early 1980s, there just wasn’t a market for 6’0″, 180 lbs. quarterbacks. That was a time before dual-threat quarterbacks. And the early to mid-1980s was even a time before the run-and-shoot offense.

Part of what makes Bradley the best athlete of all-time at Missouri, is that he was truly ahead of his time. He excelled collegiately at both baseball and football. And he carved out a respectable professional baseball career.

The mark he made on the Missouri program was only strengthened after his playing days were over. During the 2009-10 softball season, Bradley served as a volunteer assistant on Ehren Earleywine’s softball team. That team was the one that put Missouri softball on the map as the team won the Big 12 Tournament and finished 7th at the Women’s College World Series.

Bradley had a significant impact on Missouri sports as a baseball player, football player, and as a coach. In fact, he excelled at all three levels.

Other former Tigers who could have made the cut for best Missouri athlete were Kellen Winslow, James Wilder, Harry Ice, and Paul Christman.

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E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Jimmy Emerson/Flickr