The first prized pro prospect former CFLer Jykine Bradley trained after opening his gym didn’t pay him a dime.
Bradley had just opened Bradley Sports and Performance in 2012 a year after retiring from eight seasons in the CFL, including seven with Hamilton. He saw potential in Chris Ackie, who was an all-Canadian defensive back prospect from Laurier and getting ready for the most important job interview of his life: the CFL combine.
Together, the two produced results. Ackie was explosive, producing a 40-inch vertical and a 4.67-second 40-yard dash while displaying impressive cover skills for his size (six-foot-two, 205 pounds). The performance shot Ackie up the draft board and he was selected in the first round, fourth overall by the Montreal Alouettes in the 2015 CFL Draft.
“Jykine got me to where I want to be so I’ll always be here training. Jykine is one of my role models and mentors in my life,” Ackie said, who still travels from Cambridge to Brantford every day in the off-season just to train with Bradley.
For Bradley, the city has become an unlikely home, a place the 37-year-old never envisioned settling. He was born and raised in the football-crazed city of Knoxville, Tennessee and became an all-state selection in his senior season while earning a scholarship to Middle Tennessee State.
That, in turn, led to a CFL career in which the five-foot-nine, 188-pound cover man made 167 tackles and 13 interceptions – three he returned for touchdowns – while playing largely for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Bradley met his wife Yoeleisha while playing for the Ticats and decided to stay in Canada after retiring.
“I always pictured myself, and I tell my wife all the time, in Knoxville. I’m a southern guy I hate the cold weather but I love the country,” Bradley said.
Through his football career, Bradley was influenced and supported by a number of people and that’s the primary reasons why he decided to open his training facility.
“I always wanted to give back everything that I learned from my trainers and old coaches,” Bradley said. “I told my wife this is what I have to start doing as a career.”
Bradley has another highly regarded defensive back prospect from Laurier training at his gym for the CFL combine this year, Godfrey Onyeka, ranked sixth overall on the CFL’s top 20 draft eligible players list. He met Bradley during his first year with the Golden Hawks when Bradley was a guest coach in training camp. Onyeka believes he’s gotten faster because of Bradley and the goal is to beat Ackie’s testing numbers.
“If you want the pretty stuff and all the nice gym’s you gotta go somewhere else. I’m going to give it to you real,” Bradley said.
“I’m not going to tell you what you want to hear, I’m going to tell you what you need to hear.”