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Blessed Opportunity: Marlon Bradley embraces starting role in FAU's defense after years of hard work and patience

Being patient as a hard worker waiting for the right opportunity to appear is a strong virtue to have. It showcases resilience and the will to keep believing that having a solid work ethic will put you in the right spot to succeed.

That is what's happening with defensive end Marlon Bradley (pictured via Bob Markey II) who is having a breakout year with the Florida Atlantic football team. In five games this season, he has 21 tackles (nine solo) and three sacks (both career-highs) for a loss of 21 yards.

It is significant for Bradley because this is his first year as a full-time starter since joining the program in 2019, when then-head coach Lane Kiffin recruited him from Deltona High School to come play for the team.

"This was after my first year at Deltona after getting 18 sacks in my senior season. I was going into my basketball season and I picked up an offer from FAU. Got the official visit in January. This was literally right after my basketball game, so we went basketball straight to FAU for a visit. So that was Lane for sure," Bradley said.

Even though he did not play in any games in 2019 as he redshirted, Bradley still got to bear witness to the success the team had in what turned out to be Kiffin's last season with the Owls before he went to Ole Miss. FAU finished with an 11-3 record including wins in the 2019 C-USA Championship and the Boca Raton Bowl, the latter which Bradley distinctly remembers.

"How the temperature was that day, it was a little bit light rain. We came off the bus and had the hoodies on. This is right after Harry B (Harrison Bryant) took off because he was going into his NFL draft preparation and everything, so we're short for him. But the defense man, that defense was just so electric that day. We got takeaways on takeaways in that game," Bradley said.

"That game and that whole season was a blur, but there's things I remember from it that was so positive and so surreal. I want to feel that again, for sure."

Bradley spent the next three seasons developing his game while learning the lessons then-head coach Willie Taggart demonstrated to him and the players. Appearing in 22 games from 2020 to 2022, he made 15 tackles (six solo) and assisted for a sack.

"It happens so quick but then I learned something from each year and I'm still learning now. The coaches tell us they learn stuff still every day. So soaking up games is the most important thing for me. Memories shared with teammates as well because those go a long way," Bradley said.

Enter Tom Herman. With the chance to impress the incoming head coach and his staff, Bradley gained the confidence boost to display the work ethic he has developed over the years and what he can bring to the table with his skillset as a starter for the Owls throughout the entirety of spring and fall camp.

"The promotion of being a number one, I was just so blessed by getting the opportunity. But that doesn't change anything as to where I'm still a team player. I still hear from our guys. It's still us against the world. But just to be promoted like that, it just means so much to me," Bradley said.

"I thank God first of all, before anything. I mean, he put me in this position to be able to do this but it goes down to the coaches for sure..I definitely thank coaches before and now because last year's staff, I wouldn't be able to be who I am if they weren't there. And so I definitely give thanks to all the coaches that coached me."

Herman described Bradley as a veteran who is really dedicated to his craft and enjoys being coached.

"He wants feedback, he wants criticism, and he wants to be great. What makes it cool is when an older guy that opens himself up that wants to be coached like that, you can, as a coach, have an immediate impact on his development," Herman said.

"It's really cool to see him blossom and and grow almost weekly because he's so good at taking the drills and the practice and the feedback and criticism, examining it, really analyzing it, and then taking it to the field on game day and I'm excited to watch him hopefully continue to grow."

Defensive coordinator Roc Bellantoni said Bradley has taken leaps and bounds to his game since coaching him during the first session of spring practice.

"The good news is he still has leaps and bounds to go to be where some of the other guys I've coached have been in their career, but I think his potential is sky-high. And now that it's starting to show, I think he's starting to believe how good he can be. He just needs to keep showing up to work every day, and I think he's on the right path," Bellantoni said.

With all the progress he has made, Bradley knows he can't stop the journey he's on. Matter of fact, he wants to kick it up a notch.

"We're nowhere near the end of the season. We still got a lovely number of games left and a lovely number of days to put in work. So man, it's a blessing that I got put in this position to do that but it's definitely not stopped nowhere. We still got to keep going and keep it up," Bradley said.

Gearing up for a big in-state matchup with USF, Bradley said this will be his first time playing at Raymond James Stadium as he and the team will embrace the experience playing in the home of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"Raymond James, Tampa Bay Bucs. That's all I can really say about it. It's happening so fast that I mean, like, it's gonna happen. It's gonna be really exciting to be able to play in that stadium and get that NFL field," Bradley said.

The Owls will head up to Tampa to play the Bulls this upcoming Saturday on October 14th at 3:30 PM. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.

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