NFL draft 2020: How Temple LB Shaun Bradley is preparing in COVID-19 era


In a spare room of his Philadelphia apartment, former Temple linebacker Shaun Bradley held up his iPhone recently and saw Super Bowl-winning Steelers head coach, and one of the most recognizable men in the NFL, Mike Tomlin, staring back at him. 

“It was crazy,” Bradley said to NBC Sports Philadelphia this week. 

Welcome to the NFL pre-draft process in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, where in-person visits and college pro days have been replaced by Zoom calls and FaceTime. No need to worry about firm handshakes; just make sure your wifi signal is strong. 

And when you get a chance to impress one of the most accomplished head coaches in the NFL, don’t screw it up. 

“I would say it’s a little nerve-wracking but it’s also cool,” Bradley said. “You feel like, to yourself, you’re like ‘Wow, I’m finally here.’ It’s like reality a little bit. But it’s also nerve-wracking because it’s like, ‘dang, I’ve only ever seen him on TV, on the (video) game.’ To learn from somebody like that, talk to him, pick his brain, that’s crazy.”

Zoom, Zoom 

The good news for Bradley was he had plenty of practice before that particular call. He estimates he’s spoken to about 15 teams since he’s been back in his college apartment, just across the river from his hometown in Mt. Holly, New Jersey, and Tomlin wasn’t one of the first.  

Like so many of us working from home over the last couple months — hand raised — Bradley put thought into how he would present himself in these virtual calls. While most folks just want to give off a professional vibe to their coworkers, Bradley is basically interviewing for his lifelong dream job in a spare room, so he wanted to make it look good. 

So behind Bradley, in addition to a blank wall, he has positioned a Temple helmet, showing off the T proudly, and several Temple game books. Just something to make it look a little nicer and less barren. 

NFL teams have worries about the absence of in-person meetings this spring and whether or not they’ll really be able to get to know these draft prospects. Bradley thinks he’s been able to show them what he’s all about. 

“I think my personality speaks for itself,” Bradley said. “I definitely feel like they can get a good sense of who I am.” 

Some calls from NFL teams have been GMs or head coaches chatting to get to know Bradley, some teams just want to make sure they have a good number for during the draft and others want to put his football brain to work. Through Zoom’s feature that allows one party to take over screens, coaches can actually show him their scheme or game tape of Bradley in college. They can break down film in real time across the country. 

Technology has made it possible to find at least some sense of normalcy throughout this process. 

“Ten years ago,” Bradley said, “it would have been a phone call.” 

How everything changed

Temple’s pro day was originally scheduled for March 16, but, just like most of them across the country, it was canceled. 

The good news for Bradley was that he tested so well at the combine — he ran a 4.51-second 40 — he wasn’t planning on re-testing at his pro day. But he was going to do position work for NFL teams alongside teammates and fellow linebackers Chappelle Russell and Sam Franklin. And he wanted to be there for moral support. 

Bradley has been back in Philly since March 7 and has been working out in an empty complex in Jersey four times per week. His first team visit wasn’t scheduled until April 9, so all of them have been virtual. 

Leading up to the combine, Bradley had been working out at EXOS in Phoenix and went back for about a week and a half after. He was originally thinking about one more trip back to the desert before the draft but that isn’t happening. 

Ready for the draft? 

Bradley has been trying his best to tune out speculation about where he’ll be taken in the draft. “You hear so much stuff,” Bradley said. Coaches say one thing, draft experts say another. Most expect Bradley to be a mid- or late-round pick — but no one really knows. So Bradley is just going to wait and see what happens and enjoy the process as much as he possibly can. And sometimes, he tries to escape it all. 

One way Bradley has been getting away is by playing Call of Duty. 

“I’m in the war zone getting busy,” Bradley said. 

Initially, Bradley was hoping to have a lot of his family members together during the draft for a watch party. He hoped to experience a life-changing event will all of those close to him, but plans have obviously changed. 

If Bradley hears his name called, he’ll celebrate with his immediate family and then maybe get the whole family together for a virtual celebration. He has plenty of experience now. 

“That’s right,” Bradley said. “Get everyone on Zoom.” 

Hey, if it’s good enough for Mike Tomlin …  

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