Research material provided by Mike Riordan.
He seemed larger than life when he trotted onto the field prior to the Ohio High School North-South All-Star Game. He was 6’-2”, 282 lbs., dwarfing future NFL Hall-of-Fame teammate Alan Page. And at the time he was the largest player to ever don a Massillon Tiger Jersey. But he was also a gentle giant, devoting his later years to making Massillon a better place.
“Big Ben” Bradley was born in Anderson, Alabama, to parents Oscar and Blanche, on November 26, 1944. Early in life the family moved to Massillon and as a high schooler Ben took up the sports of football, wrestling and track. He also sang in the choir. But it was football where Ben made his mark. At a time when high school lineman weighed in from 175 to 200 lbs., Ben played his sophomore season at 6’-0, 220 lbs. and grew to 6’-2”, 265 lbs. by the time his senior season rolled around.
Playing under the very successful Coach Leo Strang, his teams finished 10-1 in 1960 (state champs), 11-0 in 1961 (2nd in the state A.P. poll, 1st in the state UPI poll), and 6-5 in 1962. Along the way, he had two opportunities to play in the annual Massillon-McKinley fracas and his team was victorious both times.
Ben’s normal position was center, but he occasionally filled in at offensive tackle when needed. In recognition of his outstanding play, he was named All-Stark County in 1961 and 1962, and 1st Team A.P. All-Ohio in 1962, while being named that year as a Massillon Co-Captain and subsequently its most valuable player. The awards didn’t stop there as they moved to the national scene, where was named 1st Team Pre-Season All-American by “Complete Sports” magazine and 1st Team All-American by “Scholastic Coach” magazine.
High School football success brought Ben to the University of Dayton, where he continued his football career and was named Outstanding Freshman Football Player. He eventually transferred to Northwood Institute College in Michigan to complete his studies. At Northwood, he continued to excel on the gridiron and was named 1st Team NAIA Conference at Offensive Tackle. Ben was eventually drafted in 1967 by both the NFL Kansas City Chiefs and the Montreal Allouettes of the Canadian Football League.
Post-football, Ben spent his entire career with General Motors and retired in 1993 as General Supervisor of Inland GM, Lake St. Louis, Missouri. He remained active in Massillon, but died too young on June 8, 2008 at the age of 63.
“Big Ben” was a true community role model. In fact, his accomplishments on the football field are rather insignificant when compared to his community involvement. But never one to stay away from football, Ben also took a turn in 2006 as President of the Massillon Tiger Football Booster Club. In addition, he also held these positions, when he wasn’t selling tickets for the freshmen and JV games:
- Athletic Advisory Council, President
- Second and first vice president of the Massillon Tiger Booster Club (2005, 2006)
- Incumbent 2008 President of the Massillon Tiger Touchdown Club
Away from sports, Ben was heavily engaged in community organizations, including:
- Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Stark County Community Action Agency Committee
- Member of the Massillon Parks and Recreation Board
- City Planning Commission
- African American Men’s Association
- Member of the Mayor’s Drug Task Force
- Trustee at Friendship Baptist Church
- Board Member of the Lion’s Lincoln Theater (1st African-American)
- Board of Directors, Lighthouse Visions, Inc., President 2004 and 2008
- Chairman of the Board of the Civil Service Commission, 2008
Esther Bryan, founder of Lighthouse Visions, honored Ben with the creation of the Benjamin T. Bradley scholarship. This is awarded annually to a worthy Massillon-area college student. Also, Ben was so beloved in the community that they named Bradley Place senior apartments after him in 2010.
“Big Ben” certainly accomplished his goal of leaving Massillon a better place than he found it.