FARMINGTON — Jim Bradley hasn't walked a sideline since 2006, but his presence is still felt in New Mexico high school football.
Bradley served as head coach at Roswell and Mayfield high schools and New Mexico State University between 1971 and 2005, amassing 333 career victories, including a 23-31-1 record in five seasons in the 1970s with the NMSU Aggies.
Bradley stepped down as head coach of Mayfield High in 2006, giving way to his son, Michael, who has carried on a championship tradition for the Trojans. Also on Jim Bradley's coaching staff at Mayfield was his younger son, Gary, who now coaches the Farmington High Scorpions.
This Saturday, both Gary and Michael Bradley will coach in state championship games with their respective schools.
"I think it is pretty unique, and it has never happened in our family before. We have been together in a lot of state championships in Mayfield and, obviously, with my dad. But this is pretty cool," said Gary Bradley. "Mayfield has a long-lasting tradition and a great program that is expected to be there every year, and that is what we want, too. We expect ourselves to be in this position."
Gary Bradley was hired at Farmington High in 2008 after serving as offensive coordinator for the Trojans for two years. He inherited a 3-7 squad from 2007 and suffered through a rough first season with a 2-8 record in 2008. But the Scorpions began to turn things around in 2009 with a 7-5 record, a playoff win and a spot in the state quarterfinals.
Five years after taking over the program, Gary Bradley has the team playing in the state championship game for the first time since 1962.
"Gary found a new job in Farmington and took over a program that was pretty much down at the bottom," Michael Bradley said in an interview with the Las Cruces Sun-News on Wednesday. "He's really had to work hard. ... It's a baseball town, so he's had to really work hard to get that thing back up where it needs to be. There's always room for more than one sport."
Growing up with a coaching father, Gary Bradley said he always wanted to be the head coach of a football team. Farmington High gave him his first chance.
"As far back as I can remember, that is what I wanted to do," he said. "Growing up with our dad brought us so many opportunities. Coaching was definitely something I always wanted to do. ... Farmington gave me that opportunity, and it has been great."
Gary Bradley has amassed a record of 46-25 as head coach of the Scorpions. His brother is 82-19 since 2006 with the Trojans.
Both brothers graduated from Goddard High School in Roswell, the same team Farmington High will face Saturday in the Class 4A state championship game at Hutchison Stadium in Farmington. But Jim Bradley was the head coach of rival Roswell High during those years. Michael Bradley graduated in 1981 while Gary Bradley graduated in 1986.
"My brother went to Mayfield, and then we moved to Roswell his senior year," Gary Bradley said. "He wasn't very happy about that. We ended up getting a house on Goddard's side of town. My brother couldn't play football because of a neck injury, but he graduated from Goddard and played baseball there while dad coached at Roswell. I grew up and went to Goddard and graduated from there and played against my dad, instead of for my dad. That was a pretty interesting situation, too."
Though he is playing his alma mater for a state title this week, Gary Bradley said the game doesn't carry any more significance than it would if it came against any other program.
The two brothers have been in contact this week as they both prepare for the biggest games of the year. For Michael Bradley, that game comes against crosstown rival Las Cruces in the Class 5A state championship.
"He's got a huge challenge ahead of him with Goddard," said Michael Bradley of his brother. "Very similar to what we have with Las Cruces High School."
He said that his brother's team in Farmington has fantastic kids and good athletes. Michael Bradley saw the team play this summer in a 7-on-7 scrimmage and noted how difficult it is to be highly competitive with just 26 players on the Scorps' roster.
"We have always wanted to take these steps," Gary Bradley said. "I knew it wasn't going to be fast, and we never tried to make it fast. We wanted to establish a base and a foundation built around work ethic, discipline and teamwork. It has been a good building process every year. We still have work to do, and we are short on players for sure. We are not going to beg people to play, but it sure would help to have a few more players."
Gary Bradley said he will be pulling for the Trojans on Saturday, adding that he is proud to see what his family has accomplished in New Mexico football.
Michael Bradley said his father's legacy can be seen beyond what he and his brother accomplish this weekend.
"(Gary) comes from a great lineage with my dad," Michael Bradley said. "Almost all of the (coaches) in 4A, 5A and even 3A either coached with my dad or played for him. ... It's very special."
The Las Cruces-Sun News' Teddy Feinberg contributed to this report.John Livingston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.