Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers second-round pick James Bradberry willing to lend a hand

Samford defensive back James Bradberry runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in February in Indianapolis.
Samford defensive back James Bradberry runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in February in Indianapolis. AP

James Bradberry’s cell phone was vibrating Friday night just as he was walking into the bathroom.

The 22-year-old son of Rosie Bradberry had been tasked with fixing his mother’s toilet, and he figured it was just another text message.

Then the phone kept buzzing. So he stopped on his way to do his handywork with a friend, looked at the screen and saw a 704 area code.

The toilet would have to wait.

The Carolina Panthers selected Bradberry, a cornerback out of Alabama’s Samford University, in the second round of Friday night’s draft with the 62nd overall pick. He didn’t know if he’d get drafted on Friday or Saturday, so it was as good a time as any to carry out an errand.

“Nah my mom just had me fixing it,” said Bradberry, affirming he is not a handyman. “I don’t really know how to fix things for real, but I try when I can.”

The NFL draft had been rife with stories in the 61 picks before Bradberry. From Laremy Tunsil’s gas mask and social media hacking to star defensive players falling into the second round, a good story like Bradberry’s was desperately needed.

And Bradberry couldn’t have been cooler about the whole thing. The call that changed his life—Bradberry will eventually sign a contract worth about $4 million this spring—came not in a Chicago greenroom or a rented-out nightclub but his parents’ bathroom.

Bradberry had some friends and family over at his parents’ house but there was no big party. He had planned to do something Saturday night after the draft, and that probably had to do with him being unsure where he’d fall in the draft.

Some experts pegged Bradberry as a third-day player. He’s a long, athletic corner who played mostly in press coverage at Samford, where he collected eight career interceptions following a transfer from Arkansas State.

He said he believed he could go anywhere from the second to the fifth round. Pundits locally and across the country had already penciled in Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller or Boise State safety Darian Thompson as the Panthers’ pick once the Saints took Ohio State safety Vonn Bell with the 61st pick.

It was tough for Bradberry to peg Carolina’s interest. The Panthers were the only team that both worked him out and had him for a visit.

He knew Carolina had a stout defense and would be without Josh Norman after rescinding the franchise tag earlier in the month. But he admitted that specific instance still didn’t make his ears perk up.

The news of becoming an NFL player didn’t seem to do much of anything to Bradberry. On a conference call with Charlotte reporters he spoke like a man who was just fixing a toilet.

“I’m excited. I’m not a very emotional guy,” he said. “I try to keep everything bottled in but I’m very excited on the inside. You might not be able to tell by the way I’m talking right now.”

The toilet was still waiting on Bradberry Friday night. He admitted it may not get fixed by Bradberry at all.

After all, he’s about to be flush with cash.

Jonathan Jones: 704-358-5323, @jjones9

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