Wayne Bradshaw was a family man who had a passion for both football and hiking. He treated everyone he came in contact with like a friend and touched the lives of many. On the gridiron, he was one of the most detailed-oriented coaches you’ll ever see, and he taught his players lessons that went far beyond the game of football.
On Feb. 8, Bradshaw, a longtime football and track coach at East Hall from 1987-2000, collapsed and died doing something he loved — hiking with a group of members of the Northeast Georgia Hiking Club.
He was 67 years old.
“He was always a great coach, but he was a better dad,” said Wayne’s son and North Hall track coach Joe Bradshaw, who played for and coached with him. “He was very involved in football but he always made time for us. Even when I was playing (football) in college, he came every Saturday. His love for people and working with kids is what made him so different.
“He was a head coach for 26 years, but only in a few places, so he established a home. He was big in the community and got everyone involved. When it came to coaching, he was just about the kids. Wins and losses will come, but if you teach them about life, it makes it more worthwhile.”
Bradshaw coached from 1974-2000 at Morgan County and East Hall, compiling a 171-111-3 record. He went 85-59 with the Vikings, leading them to eight playoff appearances and was named The Times All-Area Coach of the Year in 1993.
He was a charter member of the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association and served on the Hall of Fame Committee. In 2000, he was awarded the Bobby Gruhn Lifetime Achievement Award.
He coached his sons Joe and Bo Bradshaw and both his sons-in-law, Kerry Kidd and Chris Raines.
It wasn’t uncommon for players to later coach for Bradshaw or stay in touch with him after their playing days were done.
“He’s the reason I got into teaching and coaching,” said East Hall Middle assistant principal Bill Harrison, who was an assistant on Bradshaw’s staff seven seasons. “He was the most organized coach I ever worked with. He was very thorough and prepared from the offseason to practice to game day. He taught me a lot about organization.”
Added Joe Bradshaw: “He was big on detail. He wanted kids to understand not just what they were doing, but why. He always said there’s a purpose behind everything. I remember when I was 7 or 8, and he was coaching for Morgan County. We would watch 8 mm film (of an opponent) on the kitchen wall. The sound of that camera and the visual of the picture being on the wall will always be on my mind.”
But Bradshaw wasn’t just close to his players. He was friends with rival coaches as well. Former Johnson football coach Robert Mills — he’s currently golf coach at North Hall — has been a good friend of Bradshaw’s since their coaching days.
“We were rivals, but we started a relationship outside of football,” Mills said. “We’d always sit together at meetings, did a lot of hiking together, went to football games together on the Fridays we didn’t have a game, went on road trips to clinics ... He was an old-school gentleman. A class act.”
Friends the two were, but on game day, they put their coaching hats on.
“It was always a challenge because you knew his team would be ready and prepared for what you’re going to do,” Mills said. “He was my second game (of the season) in the early years we played, and I’d watch film all summer trying to get mentally ready to see what personality his team would take on. His teams were very disciplined and you knew you were going to play a well-coached team.”
After consecutive 1-9 seasons, Bradshaw guided the Vikings to a 6-4 record in 1999 before finishing out the school year retiring in 2000.
“He wanted to go at least another year,” Joe Bradshaw, “and he figured 2000 would be a good season with the senior class coming up. But he chose to retire because he figured the easiest transition for a new coach would be to come in on a winning season. That’s how much he loved the community and how much he loved East Hall.”
Once retired from coaching, Bradshaw devoted a good chunk of his free time to hiking. He was as equally detail-oriented in his hiking strategies as he was his football strategies.
“Everything was planned out,” Joe Bradshaw said. “What we were going to see, where it was located; he’d tell us the elevation, how far up or down we were going — it was just a great experience.”
At his funeral, numerous former players showed up to pay their respects.
“They loved him as much as he loved them and that’s what coaching meant to him,” Joe Bradshaw said.
“He was about the kids he was coaching, not just the sports he was coaching.”