Stanhope Elmore vs Calera

Jake Arthur/ Tallapoosa Publishers Stanhope Elmore coach Brian Bradford announced his retirement after six years as head coach and athletic director. Bradford, a Stanhope graduate, posted a 34-31 overall record in six years.

Stanhope Elmore means everything to Brian Bradford, and that made his decision to resign the hardest decision he’s ever had to make.

Bradford, a Stanhope Elmore graduate who has spent 15 years in Millbrook as a coach and the last six as the head coach, announced his decision to resign last week.

In the six years he has spent as head coach and athletic director, he has led the Mustangs to a 34-31 overall record and made the playoffs four times. This season, the Mustangs finished the year 4-6 overall and missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

The decision to resign wasn’t an easy one to make for Bradford. He wanted to stay and continue to coach his dream school, but he felt God pulling him in a different direction the last two seasons.

That came to a head after the Mustangs started the season 0-2. After that second game, Bradford said he felt God overwhelmingly tell him to resign. So he marched into Principal Ewell Fuller office and told him his plans.

Bradford said he tells his players all the time that being obedient to God come first over everything, so he knew he would be a hypocrite if he didn’t follow that path.

“I was battling myself and battling God at the same time,” Bradford said. “My plan and everything I want is to stay here. I don’t want to go anywhere. This is my home and this is my dream job. When I got this job, I told my wife I had nowhere to go from here because there’s nowhere up from here. The pinnacle of my career is this job. This is where I wanted to retire at. …”

“I’m coaching 6A football at my alma mater. What else could I want? That’s what made this so hard. Everything in my life is Stanhope Elmore. I felt God pulling me everywhere else, but I was battling my plan. God’s plan and my plan are two totally different things right now, and I had to surrender over to him and say ‘Okay, I’ll listen to your plan. Yours is the one that matters.’”

No matter if he’s coaching or not, Stanhope Elmore is home for Bradford.

Bradford graduated from Stanhope Elmore in 1994, and he returned in 2005 when he was hired as the offensive coordinator under head coach Jeff Foshee. 
He served in that role for nine years before he was hired away to be the head coach of Chilton County for three seasons from 2014-2016.

Sign up for Newsletters from The Herald

But after three seasons, he was called back home.

He took over the Stanhope program in 2017, and he has led the team to 34 wins with a 20-14 region record over the last six seasons. The Mustangs made the playoffs each of his first four seasons, including a playoff win in 2019 when the Mustangs went 9-3.

But for 17 years, he has spent time being a student and player, assistant coach, and head coach for his home team. And despite him moving on, Millbrook and Stanhope Elmore will forever be his home.

“Stanhope Elmore is everything to me,” Bradford said. “15 years of my life has been spent coaching here. I love this place. My family still lives here and my mom lives here. There’s no bad feeling towards anything with Stanhope Elmore. I love the community and everything. This place is my home and will always be my home. That’s why I wanted to come back in the first place. It’s home.”

Stanhope Elmore’s 4-6 record this season is its lowest win total since the 2016 season, and the Mustangs have now missed the playoffs two seasons in a row.

But despite that, the program is not in a bad place as Bradford departs. Four of the team’s six losses this season came by one possession, and one more play in each game could’ve given the Mustangs a 8-2 overall record instead of 4-6.

Along with that, the program continues to churn out Division I prospects year after year. Players are committing and signing to programs such as Liberty and Troy each season, and that doesn’t look to change anytime soon.

So Bradford isn’t leaving the next head coach a mess. There are no scandals and there are players ready to continue playing for whoever takes over the program next.

“I think this is a great program,” Bradford said. “We didn’t do what we wanted to this year, but we could’ve easily been hosting a region game next week. We just let a couple of things slip away from us, a couple of plays here and there, and didn’t finish a couple of games like we should’ve. We could’ve had a great season. …”

“Stanhope Elmore is a great place and a great school and we have outstanding kids. We have kids that will fight to the end and do anything that you ask. They’re wonderful kids and great football players. This place is as great as it’s ever been.”