Mizzou's Greatest, #97-96: James Wilder and Phil Bradley

The Savitar

One of the greatest QB and RB combos you'll ever see helped make this correspondent a Tiger fan for life.

James Wilder and Phil Bradley, each of whom are enshrined on the RMN Wall of Excellence, are forever linked in the minds of Mizzou fans. The punishing runner and the quarterback who was equally gifted in passing and running briefly returned Mizzou to regular bowl appearances after the boom-and-bust-back-to-back of the Onofrio years.

Personally, the advent of Wilder and Bradley was my true introduction to Mizzou football. Better teams meant more press and more importantly, more air time. Listening to and occasionally watching the exploits of Wilder, Bradley, and their teammates during my "tween" years cemented my fandom even through the wasteland that followed. I have vivid memories of listening to one of the best games in Mizzou history on the AM radio in my bedroom, in which Wilder and Bradley both shone.

Wilder possesses one of the great nicknames in Mizzou history, the Sikeston Train. Why, might you ask? Well, he was from Sikeston, was 6'3" tall, weighed 225 pounds, and he did this:

Wilder went on to great success in the NFL, becoming the Bucs leading rusher and making the Pro Bowl.

Bradley may be best known to younger Tigers as the volunteer hitting coach for the Stubble-lettes. But before his lengthy MLB career, Bradley starred for Mizzou on both the diamond and gridiron, or as Bill says, a seven-tool player:

Phil Bradley may have been the first seven-tool baseball player -- hitting for average, hitting for power, baserunning, throwing ability, fielding ability, running the option, and passing. Before he became an all-star for the Seattle Mariners in the mid-1980s, Bradley first became the Big Eight's all-time leading yardage leader and a three-time all-conference player. But his career was not necessarily based on stats so much as moments. He was behind center when Mizzou won at No. 5 Notre Dame and at No. 2 Nebraska in 1978. He ripped off a gorgeous, long touchdown run in front of a gigantic home crowd against No. 1 Alabama that same year. When Mizzou reached No. 5 in the polls in 1979, Bradley was in charge. No. 9 in 1980? Bradley again. Bowl wins over LSU and South Carolina? Of course.

Bradley's game featured pieces of seemingly every other great Mizzou quarterback. Before Chase Daniel came along, Bradley had the distinction of starting the most games for ranked Missouri teams (20). Like Corby Jones, Bradley was thrust into action as a freshman, forcing to learn on the job before he was truly ready to thrive. Like Bob Steuber and Brad Smith, his open-field athleticism was downright jarring. Like Blaine Gabbert, he received perhaps an undue amount of criticism at the time for his team's struggles. And like Paul Christman, Bradley's skill set was dramatically before its time. Few option quarterbacks were as skilled in the passing game; few passing quarterbacks were as adept on the ground.

Bradley was really ahead of his time. Imagine what he would do in a spread offense. Before Bo and Deion (and long after it was common), he was a two-sport star.

As great as each one was individually, and as good as several of their teammates were, together they made magic on the football field.

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