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White Heat

The fire still burns for Terry Bradshaw, former Super Bowl MVP quarterback.
Ken Shouler
From the Print Edition:
maduro issue, Winter 93/94

(continued from page 2)

Despite the staggering success, he is a minimalist in recalling his feats. "There's only been four great days in my professional football career," he recounts, referring to the victories in the 1975, '76, '79 and '80 Super Bowls. That sounds like the ultimate reduction of a career to its simplest components. But the high of being a football player may never be equalled again.

"I was called to be a professional football player. That was my life. When it comes to professional football--I don't know of an emotion that's ever captured it.

"Everything now is a by-product of what we did then. I can't appreciate this nearly as much as my success as a football player. This is individualistic, that was team. To get 10 players in the huddle and the expressions and the talk and the language and the bond that's there and to take these players in front of a crowd and to go to the heights we were expected to--believe me there isn't an athlete in the world who doesn't say to himself, 'I can't believe these good things happened to me.'

"It's just all that work from a child all the way up, and you see it develop and unfold. It's just unparalleled. I've raised world-class quarter horses and caught huge fish and seen my children grow up. But that long process, to stand on the field and to know we've got this thing in control and win those Super Bowls. As long as it takes to get that feeling, it takes 24 hours or less to leave. Then you start creating it again."

When a tendon in his right elbow no longer obeyed his will, Bradshaw retired. "There was nothing more to conquer, other than to conquer the same thing I'd conquered. And to do it again. I also knew it was over and I could accept it and go on. I could walk down the street with the greats of the game and never feel I had to take a backseat to anyone, no matter what they say. That's a wonderful feeling. I don't have to be called the greatest; I don't need that. I got four rings. I was quarterback; I called my own plays."

His career was complete, his legacy intact. But he also doesn't grow ecstatic with the memories or by rehashing the past. "I can't have that anymore," he says of the glory days. "I have this habit of burying things and relationships." While the public glory lingers in arguments and unending anecdotes about Swann and Stallworth and Harris and Green, for Bradshaw yesterday is yesterday and today begins a fresh reckoning and self-appraisal.

And things to get enthusiastic about. Every weekend trip to New York from Roanoke involves Bradshaw in a series of rituals. A Friday meeting with Gumbel and the edit-and-production guys might land him in La Scala for dinner and "a beer or three or four," says Gumbel. Bradshaw enjoys the place; he likes how the maître d' greets him with a hug.

Before arriving at the studio to record promos on Saturday, he heads for Ermenegildo Zegna, a men's shop where "my man" Tony Garriett tries to dress him for a Sunday in front of the world. Since he travels light--a gym bag and a suit bag--he needs accessories each week. The ritual of sifting through fine cotton and silk results in a selection of two shirts, two ties, a pocket square and a pair of suspenders. For $750. This seems a hefty price for traveling light, but if he did carry them along, he would miss this simple Saturday ritual--the sampling of the shop's finery, the banter, the fussing over him and the pleasure of kidding with the salespeople. Bradshaw values the things that remain week after week.

Off to the studio. There he works on reading 48 words for a 15-second promo spot. First time: 13 seconds. "Slow it down a little," comes a command from the edit room. He reads again. "Tomorrow on NFL Today: Can Steve Young get the 49ers back on track? Will Barry be able to run against the Saints? Plus the latest on Mark Rypien, Joe Montana and Emmitt Smith. That's all tomorrow at 12:30 Eastern on NFL Today. All ya need to know." Long on exuberance, long on Louisiana twang, but a tad too long on the pauses--he crosses the line at 15.2 seconds. Try again. On the sixth attempt, he nails it at 14.8 seconds. Good enough.

He then returns to the hotel to work--make calls, watch college football and hit the notes. He fires up a Griffin's cigar.

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