The man, the legend – Terry Bradshaw led the Pittsburgh Steelers to not one, not two, but four Super Bowl victories in the heyday of his NFL career. He was THE guy back in the ‘70s, yet his fame extended far beyond the football field. In fact, early on in his NFL career, Bradshaw displayed a knack for show business. It didn’t take long for him to begin making appearances in TV shows and movies, including The Cannonball Run and Failure to Launch (where he played Matthew McConaughey’s father).
Once his NFL career came to an end, Bradshaw remained in the football arena by working as an analyst and as part of Fox NFL Sunday since 1994. Bradshaw has been a celebrity for half a century, and so many think they know all there is to know about the athlete-turned-broadcaster. But, trust me, there’s a lot more to the man than meets the eye.
While Terry Bradshaw was making his way into showbiz, with his screen debut in Burt Reynolds’ 1978 Hooper, he was also dabbling with country music. Well, maybe it was more than just dabbling – some say he wanted to establish himself as a country music star.
He released his first LP in 1976 called I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry. The title track, a cover of the Hank Williams classic, peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. His follow-up album in 1980, called Until You, wasn’t such a hit. The title track failed to pass No. 73. After that, he stayed out of the studio for three decades, until he released his holiday single, Lights of Louisiana, in 2012.
Bradshaw played college football for the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs before becoming the first player to be picked in the 1970’s NFL draft. Apparently, being the first draft pick surprised the player himself, who thought that he would go in the third or fourth round. But it was actually a coin toss that would land Bradshaw in the hands of the Steelers.
Team owner Dan Rooney won the lucky coin flip with the owner of the Chicago Bears. Bradshaw, obviously, was Rooney’s first pick. Bradshaw admitted that he was actually hoping to be picked by the New Orleans Saints. He revealed that he was less than thrilled about the Steelers, who had just finished a horrible season.
Bradshaw was asked if he had ever made any costly financial errors. He revealed that he once lost $900,000 in real estate, right at the beginning of the recession. But he insisted that losing that amount of cash was actually a smart move.
“I was heavily invested, about 13 million bucks to be exact,” Bradshaw said. What was happening in the marketplace was making him “kind of sick” to his stomach. So he opted out of real estate investment deals. Within three days, he had sold all his property in Texas, Oklahoma, and Mexico, losing close to a million dollars in the process. He later learned that although he lost a lot of money, it could have been way worse in the wake of the recession.
Bradshaw buys and flips private jets in the same way that Flip or Flop’s Tarek El Moussa and Christina Anstead flip homes. For Bradshaw, planes are the only thing he doesn’t hesitate spending money on. He said that he’s purchased a lot of planes and owned many jets, but the most important aspect is that the jets be used for business purposes.
“You have to be smart when you buy one,” he said. He explained that when flipping a plane, learning how long to use it and when you need to move, it is paramount. The high cost doesn’t concern him; he is rich and famous, after all. Flipping planes is simply another way he’s followed his father’s advice. “My father always told me to invest in things that I know.”
Several decades after his modest success as a wannabe country singer, Bradshaw decided to release his musical prowess again. This time, he took his act on stage in the form of a live musical review. In 2013, the first version of his one-man show premiered. The show was originally called America’s Favorite Dumb Blonde… A Life in Four Quarters.
He combined music with passages about growing up in Louisiana, football, his three marriages, and his time as a “toupee model.” Over the years that followed, he refined his act, eventually renaming it The Terry Bradshaw Show. “I sing, and I think that throws them for a loop because they don’t know that I can sing. They have no reason to know.”
The four-time Super Bowl champion, veteran public speaker, and longtime TV sports analyst still gets stage fright. He admitted that getting on the stage for his first Vegas show was nothing short of “petrifying.” He made his entrance from an elevator with smoke everywhere, and he suddenly saw 2,200 people looking directly at him.
In addition to ditching the original title, Bradshaw revealed that The Terry Bradshaw Show now features more tunes and less dialogue, and it has been edited down to 70 minutes. Bradshaw, now in his 70s, says that doing the show has been a lot of fun. “At 71, I’m now a rising… whatever. Rising star! It’s a lot of fun.”
The most memorable moment in Bradshaw’s NFL career was during the 1972 AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium. Yes, it was a still-controversial play dubbed the “immaculate reception.” There were 22 seconds left on the clock, and the Steelers were behind 7-6 at the 40-yard line. Suddenly, Bradshaw nipped the ball to John “Frenchy” Fuqua.
Fuqua was then slammed by Raiders safety Jack Tatum, and the football flew sideways into the hands of Steelers’ running back Franco Harris. He took it across the line, but two questions remained: Did the ball hit the ground and did Fuqua bat it to Harris? Despite the controversy, it was a game-winning touchdown. Decades later, Bradshaw used this moment as the inspiration for a holiday poem. He recited the verses to a group of children: “Was it first touched by Frenchy? Did the ball hit the grass?… We still do not know, and four decades have passed.”
Bradshaw suffered at least six concussions during his football career. By 2011, he became concerned about the short-term memory loss he had started to experience. He even wrote an essay for the Fox Sports website, opening up about his memory loss. Then, in 2013, he shared a follow-up piece about his condition in USA Today.
“I was frustrated I couldn’t remember stuff, and I got real upset. It was driving me nuts. I got tested to see what condition my brain is in. And it’s not in real good shape,” he wrote candidly. And so, he started doing puzzles and playing ping pong to improve his memory as well as his hand-eye coordination. “It’s not the end of the world, but it’s something I have to stay on top of now.”
Bradshaw has been on TV since the 1970s as a quarterback, actor/celebrity, and football analyst. In early 2020, he revealed that he’s involved in a new TV project that would let America see a different side of his personality. The Bradshaw Bunch is a reality show on the E! network in which his family will be followed around, including his wife Tammy and their three grown daughters, Rachel, Lacey, and Erin.
Here’s a teaser: there’s a heck of a lot of laughter in the Bradshaw home. In one scene, Bradshaw learns that one of his daughters got plastic surgery. “Do we need to pray?” Tammy asks. Bradshaw then opens his Bible and reads, “Dear Lord, give me the strength to talk to Erin about her boob job.”
That’s the debate: is Tom Brady the greatest QB in NFL history? People seem to be divided, and Bradshaw is in the “no he’s not” camp. “I don’t think he’s the greatest quarterback of all-time,” Bradshaw said on Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan radio. “He may be the best quarterback we’ve had in the last 30 years. Is he better than [Roger] Staubach? No. Is he better than Dan Fouts? No. Dan Marino? No.”
According to CBS Sports, problems arise when you compare quarterbacks from different eras. The program claimed that if Bradshaw played during Brady’s time, he likely would have made 30 touchdowns each season. And if Brady had played during Bradshaw’s era, “his statistics would not come close to the numbers he put up with the Patriots.”
In February 2020, Bradshaw launched his own brand of booze called Bradshaw Bourbon. According to Bradshaw, there’s nothing better than “a fireplace, two fingers of Bourbon, a great cigar and Pavarotti playing in the background.” Bradshaw has entered the lucrative celeb-branded spirits-market. It turns out to be another way he’s followed his father’s advice of investing in what he knows.
He said that he got into the bourbon business because he loves the drink, despite the fact that his “preacher doesn’t know that I drink bourbon.” Bradshaw Bourbon is made in Owensboro, Kentucky. Who knows? Maybe one day, his brand will become as lucrative as Casamigos tequila, the brand that George Clooney sold for $1 billion.
Like many of us, Bradshaw admitted to going stir-crazy during his self-imposed lockdown. But what he did to stay sane was draw some musical inspiration from it, and the result was a new country tune called Quarantine Crazy. He told Rolling Stone Magazine that the song was a story of a family man who offers one excuse after another for why he isn’t spending time with his family.
“Now he’s quarantined, and he has to spend time with them,” he said. Bradshaw credited his wife Tammy for the song’s idea and title. He was on the phone with his friend, sportswriter Buddy Martin, when Tammy yelled out, “Terry! I’m going quarantine crazy!” His response: “‘Quarantine crazy? Hey, that’s a country song title.” The rest is history.
Bradshaw was born in 1948 in Shreveport, Louisiana. His remarkable work ethic is something that developed early on. “I was born to work, taught to work, love to work,” Bradshaw has been quoted as saying. From an early age, he developed his skills on the football field; he learned to hone a pinpoint and pass accurately.
It became his trademark move. He made all-American in college – an unusual honor considering he didn’t attend one of the football powerhouses. Instead, he played for Louisiana Technical University (which wasn’t even a Division I school). When he was drafted by the Steelers, Bradshaw was expected to be their new phenomenon and turn around the franchise.
The pressure proved to be too much for the young rookie. His first three seasons were unremarkable. The Steelers’ record improved but not enough for them to be considered contenders for the title. There were also questions raised about his potential to contribute to the team. On top of the pressures that Bradshaw had to live up to, there was also a rumor that he was “dumb.”
This mean rumor started with all the trash-talking from opponents. Do you remember Cowboy linebacker ‘Hollywood Henderson”? He said Bradshaw “couldn’t spell ‘cat’ if you spotted him the ‘c’ and the ‘t.’” But Bradshaw wasn’t dumb – he had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. Studying, especially reading, was always a huge challenge for him.
Bradshaw told The New York Times that he was a “home boy raised on my mother’s arm.” Bradshaw fought a pointless battle to win the respect of his teammates, fans, and the media. “If we have a bad game, it’s because I’m dumb. If we have a good game, it’s because everybody else played well, and I got caught up in the action,” he explained.
In his first autobiography, Man of Steel from 1974, Bradshaw wrote that he felt like he was bottoming out. His first marriage to Melissa Babish failed, he injured his shoulder, and he was often depressed. The turnaround came when Bradshaw, a born-again Christian, had a revelation.
He divulged that he had been separated from God at the time. “I lived only for Terry Bradshaw, not for God. I tried to be one of the boys and went to every honky-tonk I could find and chased women and behaved in a way that was totally alien to anything I had ever known before … my whole life was out of control.”
Bradshaw had a second “conversion” experience. He recalled feeling suddenly mentally and physically stronger. Being a quarterback didn’t matter to him – what mattered was that he was himself again, “and I was determined to stay that way.” After that, his confidence started to improve.
The Bradshaw that returned to the football field was a new man and athlete. Everyone could see that his level of play went far beyond anything he had displayed before. The Steelers then went on to a 16-6 win over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX. Of course, his teammates were ecstatic, and they finally embraced him for the first time.
During the mid to late ‘70s, the Steelers were arguably football’s most dominating dynasty. In 1975, they earned another championship victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl X. Bradshaw then took the team to another Super Bowl win in 1978, also against Dallas, beating them 35-31. Bradshaw was awarded Super Bowl MVP and NFL Player of the Year.
Bradshaw had one more triumphant year in 1980 when he led the Steelers to a fourth Super Bowl victory against the Los Angeles Rams. By 1982, however, a decade of hard professional playing had taken its toll, and his amazing passing arm was showing signs of damage. He was told he had chronic muscle deterioration around his right elbow.
He underwent surgery in 1983. But due to Coach Chuck Noll’s urging, Bradshaw returned to the field a little too soon. Only a few games into the 1983 season, he damaged his elbow, permanently this time, permanently. As a result, he had to retire prematurely. It was something he never forgave Noll for.
After retiring from football, Bradshaw started a career in television. He joined the CBS Sports Network as an NFL game analyst. He famously collaborated with play-by-play announcer Verne Lundquist. They were so close that Bradshaw chose Lundquist to introduce him at his induction to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1989 instead of his former coach Noll.
After ten years with CBS, Bradshaw joined Fox Sports in 1995 as Fox managed to take the NFL away from CBS. As co-host of Fox NFL Sunday, he made the most of his country upbringing and realized just how much he loved making people laugh. To signify his new style of football showmanship, Bradshaw dressed up in cowboy gear and rode in on a horse for his premiere show.
In 2002, Bradshaw was voted America’s Favorite Sportscaster, according to a TV Guide Reader’s Poll. Given his obvious talents, it’s a shame he was ever tagged with the “Southern simpleton” stereotype. During his time with the Steelers, Bradshaw would call all of his own plays. Play-by-play announcer Pat Summerall declared that Bradshaw was one of the sharpest minds he ever met.
Bradshaw has been incredibly versatile as an all-around media personality. He has also co-authored five biographies. He is a devoted father and raises and breeds cattle and quarter horses on his ranch. With all his personal and professional experience, it’s also no wonder that he gives motivational speeches to corporate and other groups.
Bradshaw has had a fortunate life, but he’s also had his share of obstacles. The former quarterback has been diagnosed with both ADD and depression. He actually battled depression throughout his career. At one point, he even broke down and cried during a game on the field at Three Rivers Stadium.
He described hitting rock bottom when his third wife left him in 1999. They had been married for 16 years and had two daughters together. Depression consumed him, and he coped by drinking heavily. He quickly realized that drinking wasn’t a healthy way to deal with his problems, so he learned to deal with his challenges in different ways, including medication.
Taking medication helped him deal with it all, and he said it was a major part of his recovery. “When you’re clinically depressed, the serotonin in your brain is out of balance and probably always will be out of balance,” he explained. “So, I take medication to get that proper balance back. I’ll probably have to be on it for the rest of my life.”
Bradshaw also wrote a book about his depression – a book that Bradshaw said many men have approached him about and thanked him for. “I have had men, and it’s at the grocery store… They’ll shuffle over to me, fidgeting in the aisle and go, “Hey, man. I read your book. I got depression too. Appreciate all you’re doing for us now.” And then they’ll leave and go away.”
Let’s stay on the sports train and see which actors used to be athletes. It’s a fun one…