From Mansfield, Ohio, to Tempe, Arizona.
The journey for Mansfield Senior's Keontez Bradley is just beginning. On Wednesday evening in front of his family and friends, Bradley put pen to paper and signed a national letter of intent to play football at Arizona State University, making his commitment official.
Bradley, a three-star defensive back in the class of 2023, went through a wild ride over the last two weeks. Originally a Kent State University verbal commit, Bradley reopened his recruitment on Dec. 7 after Kent State coach Sean Lewis left to become offensive coordinator at Colorado under new coach Deion Sanders.
On Dec. 12, he took a visit to Miami of Ohio and, on the same day, he received a full athletic scholarship offer from Arizona State and was on a plane as fast as he could be to take an official visit. It didn't take him long to make his commitment to ASU, and on Wednesday he made it 100% official.
"I have been in contact with Arizona State for a while," Bradley said. "I was committed to Kent State for a while and everyone knew, but then the head coach left and I decided to open my recruitment back up, and Arizona State took the opportunity to offer me and get me down to their school and show me what they had to offer. It was a great experience down there. I have never seen the kind of facilities they have and the resources they have available to their student-athletes. I saw their vision, and I wanted to be a part of that."
Bradley will begin his collegiate career as a cornerback and will likely grow into a nickel or a safety, where he played for the Tygers in 2022. During his senior season, he collected 53 tackles with two interceptions and 10 pass deflections, a team-high, while splitting time at corner and safety.
He said he hopes to see those numbers translate to the PAC 12, a Power 5 Conference.
"It is big-time football and I am excited," Bradley said. "I hope I can maximize my talent in their hands and with their resources. The new coaching staff likes taller defensive backs who are long and rangy with speed. I feel like I fit right in. They told me the fastest way for me to get on the field is to play corner until my body developed into a nickel, hanger safety style. It is all up to me to put in the work to get on the field."
After the visit over the weekend, Tygers coach Chioke Bradley, Keontez's father, left feeling comfortable his son would be in the right hands at ASU, making the decision to send him nearly 1,700 miles away an easy one.
"It is a wonderful place," Chioke Bradley said. "Coach (Kenny) Dillingham and his staff, coach (Bryan) Carrington and coach (Brian) Ward all really showed us a very good time and show us Keontez in a different light. They explained to us how he will be developed not only as a football player, but as a man.
"It was an opportunity he couldn't pass up. The athletic piece is one thing, but the academic piece is so important to his growth in life. It is a blessing. I think God and I have been thanking God all day. I am so grateful."
The younger Bradley was sensational during the 2022 regular season, but he was at his best in the postseason. He returned an interception for a touchdown against Ontario in the playoff opener and had eight tackles in a 16-0 win over Defiance. He spearheaded a defense that didn't allow a single point in the first two rounds of the playoffs and led the Tygers to a 10-3 record.
He gave a lot of credit to the city of Mansfield and the Mansfield Senior football program.
"It was everything," Keontez Bradley said. "Being here and growing up in Mansfield is better than anything I could ever have imagined. What I got as my dad as a head coach and teammates who push me every day is all so special to me. I wish I would have cherished the moments more."
Chioke Bradley was happy to hear his son speak about a city that helped him achieve so much.
"It takes a village," coach Bradley said. "My son is a product of a village. Sure, I am his dad and he has his mom and Erica, my wife, and we did a lot for him growing up, but without his grandparents and all of the different coaches and his teammates he wouldn't be here. Everyone has been instrumental in getting him on this path and start him on his journey to the finished result.
"It is a feeling I cannot truly explain with how grateful I am for everyone who helped Keontez get to this point. December 21, 2022, is a great day for the Bradley family and for Tyger football."
Bradley earned first-team All-Northwest District honors as a wide receiver as well as second-team All-Ohio Cardinal Conference honors during his senior year. He will be sticking around and running track in the spring, looking for another state-qualifying and All-Ohio honor in the sport.
And then he will head to the desert to begin the next phase of his life.