A simple school flyer was all it took.
The flyer read, “Tennis lessons. Call for more info.” The wide-eyed six-year-old gave it a try and has never looked back. Now, 18 years later, senior Megan Bradley has blossomed into one of the nation’s elite tennis players and currently boasts the country’s No. 2 ranking.
The Bradley family is no stranger to athletics. Bradley’s father, Phil, played football at the University of Missouri and was the first African-American quarterback in the school’s history. Growing up, Mr. Bradley was a significant influence in Ms. Bradley’s life.
“He knows what it’s like to play college athletics and be in big competition,” Ms. Bradley said. “But at the end of the day I’m going to be his daughter and tennis is very minor in the grand scheme of things.”
By the time Ms. Bradley turned 12, she was bigger, stronger and smarter than her competitors. She was entering tournaments and winning them handily.
“It was just a matter of defining what my talent was and working hard to try and improve it,” she said.
By 2001 Ms. Bradley was the top-ranked player in her age group and was considered the country’s top recruit. Scholarship offers came regularly and coaches everywhere competed for her attention.
Ms. Bradley enrolled to play at UCLA but then transferred to UM after her freshman year. The switch made an immediate impact on both Ms. Bradley life as well as the team. Megan immediately elevated UM woman’s tennis onto the national scene.
Throughout her three years at UM, Ms. Bradley has developed relationships with teammates, coaches and even other athletes. Last year, Ms. Bradley dated former ‘Canes running back Jarrett Payton. Like Ms. Bradley, Payton too comes from a very athletic lineage, being the son of the late NFL Hall of Famer Walter Payton.
“It’s good to have someone so important in your life be able to feel the same things you’re feeling and talk about similar situations,” she said.
Payton frequently attended Ms. Bradley’s matches and was a pillar of solace throughout a rigorous tennis schedule.
“The mind of an athlete is unique,” she said. “It takes another athlete to understand it to its full capacity.”
Ms. Bradley has aspirations to take game her game to a professional level. However, her immediate goals are to lead her team to a national championship.
“My first responsibility is leading the team and then the individual aspect comes at the end of the year,” she said.
Ms. Bradley enjoys the excitement of a national ranking but only so much as its benefits her team.
“If my recognition can bring other people out to see my teammates and increase awareness, then I’m for it,” she said. “The best I can do is lead by example.”
Ms. Bradley has come a long way from the day she got her first tennis lessons. She has given a reputable face to UM women’s tennis and has touched many lives on her way. Ms. Bradley knows she is still growing and learning everyday and even said that her greatest accomplishment has yet to come.
Ms. Bradley’s trophy case is already filled with a variety of plaques, plates, metals and awards. But there is always room for one more. Especially if it says National Championship on it.
Chris Hamilton can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.