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CFA to Three Big Redders: Well Done!

9/23/2015 | By Jim Hanchett '53 | CFA Historian

Frank Bradley ’50 and Mark Miller ’84 are the winners of the 2015 Louis J. Conti ’41 Cornell Football Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The CFA will honor them and the late Bill Whelan ’53 with its Joe King ’36 Memorial Award at Schoellkopf before the Columbia game November 14.

Jack Rogers remembers his Big Red teammate Bradley from New Jersey high school days when Rogers’ Westfield High School played Bradley’s Ridgewood. What does Rogers recall? “We lost. Because of Bradley” . . . who led his team in rushing, passing and touchdowns, “excellent and clean activity on the gridiron, classes, home life and relations with colleagues.” He went on to Peddie, where he captained the football team, made All State, was cum laude and class president and won the state 100-yard dash title. From there he went directly into the Army Air Corps and became a B-17 bomber navigator in 1942.

After the war, Bradley made his way to Cornell for mechanical engineering and won four football letters. Not many did that before freshmen became eligible. Pop Warner’s little brother William was one who did, and Joe Beacham, father of C.U.’s marching band of 100, was another. Despite those four letters, a number of injuries limited Bradley’s playing time. But what there was, was choice. For instance, he carried once in the classic 1948 struggle with Dartmouth.

His jaw was broken in the seventh game of that winning year, a 14-6 conquest of Colgate. (Cornell’s Lefty James Boys lost only to Army that year but beat Navy.) The jaw was wired shut and Bradley took liquid nourishment. It appeared that the season was over for him. But the National Cash Register’s Ithaca plant, consulting with trainer Frank (Doc) Kavanagh and team doctor Alex Rachun, whipped up a steel mask and suggested he could wear it in a game. The medics cleared it and Bradley returned to workouts. But it wasn’t easy to breathe through it.

Nevertheless, he suited up for Dartmouth, which scored first. Late in the first quarter, Lefty sent him in. On the first play, he took a pitch from QB Pete Dorset at the Red 20, slipped around right end and behind superb blacking, particularly aided and abetted by guards Vinnie DiGrande and Jack Jaso, sprinted to the last white line, almost breathless as he passed it. That was his only play of a day when fullback Bob Dean’s last ditch TD plunge and PAT gave the Red a 27-26 victory that made history. Bradley carried the ball a dozen times at Penn the next week in Cornell’s first quashing of the Quakers since the national laurels of ’39. A fourth quarter injury forced him out of the 23-14 upset of the ’48 men of Penn. Cornell won an unofficial Ivy crown of Ivy that day.

Like many married war veterans, Bradley lived in Vetsburg with his late wife, Kathleen, the family grew to ten children, 16 grandchildren, and ten great grandchildren.

In his four years, Bradley carried the ball 112 times for 530 yards. He entered the Cornell Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001.

As a retired consultant on Cape Cod and in Florida, he has donated much to Big Red football — and time to drive people who needed it to hospitals and doctors’ appointments.

Described as a tough, explosive inside runner, fierce and fine blocker and superior receiver, tailback Miller came to Cornell from Willard High School, Willard, OH. He more than doubled the rushing total of his classmate, Derrick Harmon, on C.U.’s 1980 freshman team and was named its top offensive player. Harmon, it must be noted, missed many yards rushing owing to a severe ankle injury. Miller was switched to fullback, a position he preferred, as a sophomore. Injured in the preseason, he still played in nine games and averaged 4.5 yards a carry and 4.1 in ten ’82 games. On opening day at Penn in ’83 tri-captain Miller broke his foot and missed the rest of the season. As Pete Noyes notes, the fact that Miller was twice chosen co-captain spoke volumes of how his coaches and teammates felt about him. He was Cornell’s first two-time captain since 1907 — an incredible tribute to a superb player and leader.
In ’84 he was available for just four games after breaking the same foot again during the summer. So he was able to appear in 24 games — something over half of those for which he was eligible. But in the end, Miller and his teammates built a strong foundation for the 1986, ’88 and ’90 teams that played in three Ivy championship games and won two.

Miller was unfazed by heavy going in the classroom, beginning his student days in engineering before switching to a nutritional biochemistry major. In his early alumhood, he wet his feet in the financial world of deep downtown Manhattan while resting his head in somewhat higher Manhattan digs, just south of 14th St. Trainer Bernie DePalma, who has been in close touch with him since his playing days, notes that Miller worked hard for years, with high positions in firms like Salomon Brothers, Citicorp, Global Fixed Income, Bank of America, The Seaport Group and BlackRock. But he always gives first priority to his family. Wife Mary, four children — Deidre, 23, Andrew, 21 (Cornell ’18) Tyler, 19 (Cornell ’19), and Katherine, his parents, George and Dolores Miller — and religion — “mean everything to him.”
DePalma notes that in his 35 years at Schoellkopf he has known hundreds of players. “Miller is the most genuine. There’s no hidden agenda; he’ll do anything to help anybody and just plain doesn’t ask for, or want, anything in return.” He has shared good fortune generously with worthy causes, very much including Cornell, Big Red football and CFA, of which he has been a founding board member since 1993. He’s been a leader of the food-based and social organization P.O.T.S (Part of the Solution) which aids the poor, the working poor and the homeless of the Bronx; the Rye, NY, YMCA; Student Sponsor Partners in NYC; CCD teacher at Resurrection Parish of Rye; and head football coach of the Harrison, NY Youth (Fifth and Sixth Grade).
Whelan’s father, Thomas, principal of Lynn, MA, English High School, took him to see Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon and his University of Michigan team whomp Harvard in 1940. It was the second year in a row that Cornell turned off the Ohio State University powerhouse. The ’40 Redmen lost the top national rating on that Fifth Down at Dartmouth. Harmon ran for three touchdowns, passed for another, kicked two PAT and outrushed the entire Crimson crew, 204 yards to 61. The U of M starters played only two minutes of the second half in the 28-0 vanquishing of the ‘Vard.

Two decades later, after Lynn English and Deerfield, Whelan joined halfback Bob Engel, quarterback Jack Jaeckel and a flock of ’53 classmates on Pat Filley’s unbeaten freshman team who played central parts in the Big Red’s 1951 20-7 dismemberment of the Big Ten and Rose Bowl champion Wolverines. He spoke of that 1940 afternoon many decades later and it may have come to mind on that beautiful fall ’51 day of Wolvie walloping.

Whelan was a steely, quiet, humbly determined triple threat to the boys in maize and blue — with a spectacular wingback across delay pass reception and dash that set up the first Red touchdown, mashing Michigan on defense, and, as always, with punishing punts.

He ran wild against Columbia and Dartmouth in ’51 and was All-Ivy first team that year and captain and MVP in ’52 (and baseball captain as well). More than once in his career he punted deep and arrived in time to nail the would-be returner in his tracks.

Whelan made a spectacular debut in the first game of his sophomore year, 1950, when he punted four times against Lafayette to a 52-yard average. He quickly proved to be a dependable pass grabber and a threat to break loose for lots of yards from scrimmage and assorted kick returns. In the 1950 Penn hurricane game, he unloaded one windblown 63-yard punt and one into the teeth of the gale for minus yards.

He entered the C.U. Athletic Hall of Fame in 1983. He died in February 2013, leaving Jean, his wife of 59 years, six grown children and at most recent count 19 grandchildren.