When I was a kid, I always liked just about anybody that shared my name. But, if the guy was a star football player that took him to another level completely even if he did play on the wrong team. I was never a New York Football Giants fan, but I was always a big fan of their Linebacker Brad Van Pelt.
Growing up in Owasso, Michigan, Brad Van Pelt was an incredible athlete playing both football, baseball and basketball. Van Pelt was 6-5, 220 and it was said that he once brought down 42 rebounds in one game alone. If true, that’s pretty much a guarantee that his team won the game.
The nearby Detroit Tigers wanted to draft him out of high school, supposedly, but he wasn’t interested.
He was a Quarterback at Owasso High and All League in football at Quarterback and Defensive Back and in basketball and baseball. He also made All State in football. The big and talented Van Pelt signed to play football at Michigan State, but at Michigan State he also played multiple sports.
Brad Van Pelt, my hero, was an All American at Michigan State as a Safety in 1971 and 1972. What’s even better, he won the Maxwell Award which is for the nation’s best player in 1972.
At Michigan State, he played during the last years of Duffy Daugherty and I was also a huge fan of Daugherty because he recruited a lot of black players for the Spartans back in the civil rights era and it wasn’t done in the South.
Van Pelt was drafted in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft by the New York Giants in 1973. Later, he teamed up with the super legendary best ever Linebacker Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson and Brian Kelly to form the Crunch Bunch. I do remember them well, but what I did not know until only recently is that they were all really close off the field.
Playing 14 years in the NFL and making the Pro Bowl 5 times, Van Pelt was a Giant for 11 seasons before signing with the Los Angeles Raiders and then the Cleveland Browns.
Van Pelt became double a favorite player for me when he had a son and named him Bradlee Van Pelt. Now, here’s a guy after my own heart.
Suffice it to say that young Bradlee was an athlete as well, or I would not be writing this blog about him.
Bradlee grew up in Santa Barbara and attended San Marcos High School. A lot of famous people also graduated from San Marcos such as Goose from Top Gun, actor Anthony Edwards. Kathy Ireland, the model, actress and business woman also attended San Marcos High and don’t laugh, she is worth over 400 million dollars and not all based on looks.
Actors and actresses Randall Mantooth, Eric Stoltz, Kady Hoffman and Alan Baltes were others from that high school.
Throw in UFC fighter Chuck Liddell and numerous other athletes including golfers, volleyball players and professional baseball players.
As a star Quarterback and Defensive Back, Bradlee followed in his father’s footsteps. He was first team all state and won several other offers and signed with Nick Saban when he coached at Michigan State.
Saban was a wanderer at the time and he left for LSU after Bradlee’s first year in East Lansing.
Saban had taken over an ailing Michigan State football team that had been 0-11 before his arrival. He turned it around and in his 5th season, the Spartans finished 10-2.
Replacing Saban was Bobby Williams and Williams wanted Bradlee Van Pelt to play Defensive
Van Pelt wanted to stick with Quarterback and he transferred to Colorado State.
Bradlee Van Pelt took his hard hitting Defensive Back playing style and used it in his Quarterback position. The reason I liked Bradlee Van Pelt as much as his father Brad was because of that tough guy style of play.
His first game as a Colorado State Ram was against their bitter in-state rivals, the Colorado Buffaloes. The Buffaloes would go on and win the Big 12 that season and finish up 10-3, and they crushed the Rams and Bradlee Van Pelt, 41-14.
I don’t believe that Van Pelt ever forgave them for that. Even when not playing against his Rams, Van Pelt might show up at Buffalo games and yell against them.
The Rams only finished 7-5 during Van Pelt’s sophomore season of 2001, and he threw for just over 1,200 yards while he ran for 546 yards.
Bradlee was tough, he was fiesty and aggressive and he was a leader. He was a fun guy to watch and especially for a Quarterback with not the greatest skills.
2002 must have been a thrill for Bradlee Van Pelt when he led his tough Rams to an upset win over the hated Buffaloes of Colorado. The Buffs were ranked 7th and it was sweet revenge for the Rams’ leader Van Pelt.
Van Pelt threw for over 2,000 yards that season. Cecil Sapp ran for 1,601 yards and 17 Touchdowns and Van Pelt helped the ground game out with 819 yards and 11 Touchdowns. The Rams ran out to an impressive 10-4 record.
As a senior, the Rams suffered a disappointing season which started off with a crushing defeat against Colorado. The Buffs prevailed 42-35 in a real shootout. They finished the regular season with a 7-5 record and much more was expected. Then, they lost to Boston College in the San Francisco Bowl to end up 7-6.
Van Pelt was not that well liked by NFL scouts even though he had proven himself to be a player with a lot of heart.
The Denver Broncos drafted Bradlee Van Pelt with their 7th round draft pick.
He only played a couple of years for the Broncos and 3 years in the NFL before being cut. Then, he played in Europe for a couple of seasons.
At Colorado State, with his helmet off, Bradlee Van Pelt reminded me a little bit of Ashton Kutcher. But, Kutcher with an attitude and plenty of toughness. Van Pelt was smaller than his father, he only grew to 6-2, 220. He probably played out of position and would have made a good Linebacker or a Safety. But, like Tim Tebow, playing Quarterback was his dream.
This story does not have a happy ending. Brad Van Pelt passed away while sitting in his chair in 2009 at the relatively young age of 59.
But, while active, both Brad Van Pelt and his tough, Quarterback playing son were a lot of fun to watch. Both of them made the name Brad very, very proud.